Seventeen, I was living life
Chasing dreams and my hopes were high
Trying to get around my fear of
When and where do I go from here

I asked somebody close to me
Who could see a lot further than a boy could see
Oh, oh, oh and he said...

Oh my, oh my, oh my these days are flying by
I still feel seventeen inside, not one day over
Don't let the trials of life, change who you are tonight
Stay seventeen each time you get one year older

I said you're at that time of life when your heart is strong
Your future's bright, you can do no wrong
And don't you let those feelings out of sight
Keep a hold of them as the years go rolling by

-- Simon Webbe, "Seventeen"

My oldest child is 17 today. Overlooking my bias as his mother, he has grown to be an incredibly handsome young man. It takes no effort at all to recall how he looked the day he was born. After an insanely fast and traumatic birth, he looked pretty much like Charles Bronson in Death Wish. He had dark yellow skin from jaundice, a pile of greasy black hair, and his face was so puffy that his eyes were little dark slits. He had a serious conehead going on from the vacuum they used to finally pull his 8 pound body out of me, because his little heart was not doing so well in all the craziness of being propelled out at warp speed. PUSH! they screamed at me. NO! I screamed back.AIIIEEEEEE! I went. WAAAHH! he went. HOLY SHIT! I said, I AIN'T DOING THAT EVER AGAIN! Big liar.

And that was that. I held little Charlie Bronson in my arms, looked down at this wiggling creation in a white flannel burrito wrap blanket and thought, welllllll, not exactly what I thought was going to come out, but I bet I will learn to appreciate his rugged and vaguely-Asian good looks. Silly me. Within a couple of weeks his jaundice was gone, his hair turned brown, his eyes a big bright blue, and he actually looked like he was my child, but cuter. He never slept, it seemed, watched everything, began to laugh and smile, and we began to know each other. It is a particular privilege to parenthood to be able to see a person unfold right in front of you. For all the worry and heartache it sometimes brings, it is an experience of great depth and one I am profoundly grateful for.

This is his last year to be a child. Next year, at eighteen, whether he is working or at college, everything changes dramatically, and should. It will be time for him to begin to figure things out on his own, have his own experiences, his own life. Seventeen is where you stand at the edge of the pool, sticking your toe in, until you jump in or are pushed in, either way. I remember. Frightening and thrilling and daunting and dizzy with possibilities. The feeling of things happening that could be REALLY COOL, or REALLY NOT COOL AT ALL. I will have to stand back, and watch as he takes the machete through the jungle or lets the vines grow over him. His fight and figuring out is his own. I am still dealing with my own machete issues. Damn dull blade.

So tonight per his request, I will make tacos, as I have for many years on his birthday now. He wants a Key Lime Pie, and I will get that too. He will have some nice presents to open, and he will be gracious. I know, and he knows, that next year he might not be home to have tacos and Key Lime Pie and presents and Happy Birthday sung to him. So for the 17th time, I will sing to him, my not-Bronson, and watch the sparkle of the birthday candle flames dance in his big blue eyes.