Twenty Years of Firsts

Baby Andrew With His Sister

Looking at the snow in the garden through the window, I realize that when it came two days ago, it was the first of the season and I am reminded that life is made of many firsts.
Like the first time that Andrew stirred in my tummy, the flapping of a butterfly’s papery wings, could not have been more delicate than his first:
“Hi mummy, I’m in your tummy.”
And what about that first time we met one another?
To be honest, I am not the all-blissful Mother Earth kind of mother. I have to admit it, when Andrew was born, to be more accurate, when he popped out of me like a cork shooting out of a champagne bottle, I felt like: “Thank God this thing is out of me.”
It wasn’t until my husband, his voice resonating with pride and joy said:
“It’s a boy,” that I “remembered” that I had just given birth.
I was bleeding heavily and there were “repairs” to be made. And so, I was only given him to hold for a second before they took him, cleaned him up and gave him to my husband to hold. As the doctors administered to me, Hugh brought our new baby close so that I could see him.
He wasn’t my first child, but he was my first boy. It was my Andrew, who would later become our bouncy Tigger.
But for now, I looked at his wrinkled-up newly-born face, and saw a wise soul looking back at me through his wide-open eyes for a moment, before closing them and dozing off after the hard work of being born.

I can close my eyes, or keep them open for that matter, and see, like in a movie, twenty years’ worth of firsts.
First smile, first food, first tooth, first burp – gosh, I know that many mothers will agree with me, Mozart is nothing compared to the sound of the first burp of a baby that’s just been fed –
I can go on and on – first steps, first day of school. Ah, I have to stop for a moment here.
Andrew’s first day in his new school in America was difficult.
His new teacher, one of my all time favorites amongst Andrew’s teachers, couldn’t have been more warm and welcoming, eagerly showing him his new desk, taking him by the hand.
But it was mine that he wanted to hold on to. As I started to let go, he pulled me back and held on tighter. I wrapped my arms around him and held him for a while; I gave him lots of kisses and then let go of him; when I got to the door, I turned around and looked at him looking at me. I blew him a kiss and left. Once outside I burst into tears.
But there were many other extraordinary firsts too, like when he suddenly learned to read.
He couldn’t blend letters and vowels together to form words, it was part of an eye to hand coordination challenge he faced and he had therapy to help him with that.
But do you know what was the therapy that helped him best?
It was the Sega Genesis we gave him on his sixth birthday. We had resisted that kind of thing coming into our home, but we’d only just moved to the States, he missed his friends from London, we gave in. And I swear to God, within a few weeks of playing that game, his eye to hand coordination “issue” disappeared AND he suddenly learned to read as well.
It was a book about a Mrs. Pepperpot, an old woman who would shrink to the size of a thumb at the most inconvenient times. It was his wanting to cheer her on, his wanting things to work out for her, that gave him the impetus to keep blending vowels and letters together until suddenly he could read well. That was the first book that Andrew read all by himself, and it gave him the power and freedom to indulge his great passion: reading, writing and learning.
He did lots of other usual firsts that we all do, like driving a car for instance, but though he loved tradition, he did not blindly follow convention.
On the contrary, he could butt heads with us as well as with his teachers and professors, on any point that he felt was important enough to make a stand.
One such instance, in high school, was being reprimanded by a teacher for something he felt was unjustified, and he took issue with the fact that it came from someone who was often late for class, and regardless of the consequences, Andrew told the teacher so.
He was the kind of child and then young man, who was prepared to stand up and be counted, regardless of whether he was afraid or not.

Andrew, going up to the tenth floor of Bobst at NYU and throwing yourself down onto the marble atrium was not a first you should have tried. After that first there is only zero! There cannot be a second after that, you cannot change your mind after your are dead.
My whole being keeps screaming as my mind imagines you falling, my soul shudders as it senses the moment of impact.
I read on the internet that you were found unresponsive, on your back.
Some twit, who was in the library at the time, text messaged the Washington Square News Journal (I am not 100% certain if it was the WSNJ) and said “…someone’s just thrown himself from high above, I can’t really tell from here, but it doesn’t look good…”
Well, you don’t say, you Fucking Idiot! What mother Fucker pea-brained twerp thinks of texting a paper instead of succorring someone who has just fallen from the sky? Yeah, granted, you probably thought he was dead, BUT WHAT IF HE WASN’T? What if there were a few seconds of life left in him and you could have given him a compassionate smile and said to him, “Go in peace Buddy” Nah, text message someone without a face instead, much more important. That’s how you think you are going to become a journalist do you?

But let’s forget about that creep now, he is not important, let us talk to each other instead.
In the past you’ve always explained your thinking to me, to Daddy, to your brother and sister, you’ve shared your ideas. But where did this one come from? Could you not have come to us? You had ice cream with your sister only hours before, you hugged her and laughed and joked. What happened after that?
How will I ever know what you were thinking? How will I know your reasons unless you tell me?
Still, I want to tell you, again, that I do not judge you: I LOVE YOU. Daddy, Florentina, Robert, Nova and Zoe the cat, and Bruno your beloved bear LOVE YOU! And your Nonna and Granny, your aunts in Italy and in England, your uncles, your cousins and your dozens of friends, they ALL LOVE YOU.
But don’t worry my love, we will make sense of all this. Your life will not be wasted. The sun will not set on you, my darling. Your light is already spreading.

I love you Andrew

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6 thoughts on “Twenty Years of Firsts

  1. My 22 year old son, Douglas, took his life 10 years ago. He was a student at NYU law school. Dean Sexton was the dean of the law school at the time. I now run a support group in Manhattan for parents who lost children to suicide. I am active in the AFSP and friends with the Satows who run the Jed Foundation. I am so sorry for your loss. I also lost 2 other children, and have one surviving son. I hope that you will get in touch with me. It is a long difficult road.

      • I forgot to mention that when Doug died, Dean Sexton initiated and participated in a memorial service for Doug at the law school. This was before the number of suicides at the school increased. I was shocked at his e-mail and attitude towards you.Love, Marcia, Doug’s mom

      • I am glad you are saying that, because I am, and please forgive my French, as pissed as hell!
        Oh, and NO ONE from NYU came to the funeral, other than my children’s friend. And feeling like that is not what I aim for in my spiritual practices..
        And love to you and may peace prevail in all our hearts, at some point.

  2. Today I was driving my 12 year old son to his friend’s house and while we were talking, he told me he didn´’t want to grow older because then, me and his father would die, and he would miss us very much. I thought of you then. And I told him that even when we- me and his dad- are dead, although he will miss us, he should always remember that we would only be out of his sight, but never far from him.And that when he misses us, he should go to that special place in his heart where love keeps all of our beloved ones, and hug us, and he would feel that we are right there, just a breath away. And that LOVE WILL ALWAYS KEEP US TOGETHER.
    I know it´s hard, dear Esmeralda, but try to remember that. It might ease your pain.
    My prayers are with you and your family
    Cintia

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