Twelve Years Old


A late December morning, on your new beanbag, which was a Christmas present.  It’s not small.

Dear Whit,

On Friday, you turned twelve.  It’s the oldest cliche in the book, and also one of the great truisms: how is this possible?  You just arrived, in a cold snap and just in advance of a blizzard, shocking me and your father with your boy-ness, your blue eyes, and your blond hair.  All three of those charateristics remain true, twelve years later, and the shock has moderated to a gentle startle, but suffice it to say you can still surprise us.

Mostly you surprise us with how closely you’re paying attention, and with the way you remember things.  Even as a small child, you’d bust out with references to things we’d said or done weeks or months ago, making it very clear that we had better mean everything we said since it was filed away in your steel trap for future use.  You are also able to take my breath away with surprising demonstrations of sensitivity, which I’m already getting a feeling the world doesn’t quite know what to do with in a boy.  For that reason above all, I want to protect your ability to feel deeply, your language about your own feelings, and your willingness to talk about the landscape of emotion.

You don’t always love feeling so much, I know. Over the winter break, we put away our enormous stash of Legos into the basement. I found you sitting quietly in the living room, clearly sad.  When I probed, you started crying and admitted it was really hard to put the Legos away.  They’d meant so much to you for so long.  I meant something was over.  I was reminded of the evening, many years ago, when you wept about wanting to still be a baby.

I saw something that night that was keenly familiar. There’s a deep seam of nostalgia and an orientation towards melancholy buried inside of you (underneath your hilarious exterior, which means it’s unexpected) that I suspect you inherited from me. In a lot of ways, though, you’ve very different from me (though we look more and more alike, in my opinion – sorry about that!) and I watch you move through the world with a mixture of bewilderment (you are mostly unburdened by the desperate need to please that weighs heavily on my shoulders and, also, on those of your sister) and admiration (what a marvelously reasonable and free way to go through life!).

Your bedroom is just down the hall from my office, where I spent the great majority of my time.  That means a little extra exposure to you, and such delights as listening to you sing Do You Hear the People Sing under your breath as you do math homework or hearing your daily check in conversation with your Echo Dot when you get home from school. “Hey, Alexa! How was your day?” You often ask.

You like sports and have played hockey, baseball, and tennis for many years.  You started playing football this year in school, and you and your equal-sized dear friend standing among the giant 8th grade boys was one of my favorite photographs from last fall. You are an excellent team mate and coaches inevitably refer to your attitude and coachability.  You really enjoy being a part of a team and your Dad and I like the way it’s allowed you to meet and bond with friends outside of school.

It’s not sports that really makes your heart beat faster, though.  More than anything, that’s science and robotics.  For a while we went to the MIT lectures on various science topics on Saturday mornings, you eagerly await your monthly Tinker Crate, and the Science Museum is one of your favorite places. You have a periodic table taped to the wall of your bedroom, Randall Munroe’s What If? is one of your most treasured books, and you love Scratch.  A couple of summers ago Dad and I set up a workbench for you in the basement, and you like to retreat down there to tinker and work.  You were disappointed, however, when we decided it wasn’t safe for you to use power tools and work with wood alone in the basement.

Summer camp is your happy place, and the fact that you gamely returned last summer despite a not-great experience in 2015 makes me proud. You learned some important lessons about perseverance and trying things again, and you were amply rewarded with a terrific summer last year.  You are counting minutes until your return this upcoming summer.  You also love the weeks you spend with my parents at their house on the ocean, and wowed both your Dad and I when we saw the series of alarms you’d set on your old itouch to remind you that it was time to go to sailing and tennis.  Your autonomy and independence are growing in leaps and bounds.

You are funny and you are wise and you are generous and you are kind.  Most often, you’re the member of the family who remembers to ask about a doctor’s appointment or big meeting.  You run upstairs when you get home and give me a hug. You aren’t always in a good mood, but when you are you are one of the more charming people I’ve ever met.  You make me laugh every single day. This fall, after watching one debate with us, you would randomly respond to questions by muttering, “Emails!  Benghazi!” More than one person has asked me if we named you a trait we wanted you to have – ie wit – and the answer is no (your name is a family name on my side, and my sister’s middle name) but I understand the question.

You are rapidly shedding any little boy behaviors.  When I looked for a picture to put in this post, I was startled by how grown up you looked in recent photos.  You are still a small guy, but you’re growing up fast.  You still hug me, give me our secret “I love you” sign when I drop you at school in the morning, and eagerly climb into bed next to me to read at night.  Please don’t stop doing those things!  You are getting braces soon, though, and you have expressed your preference that I not cheer loudly for “Whitty!” at the hockey rink.  Fair enough.

When I wrote a post for you on Instagram on Friday, I mentioned one of the things I love best about you.  As is often the case with me, I didn’t really realize I felt something until I wrote it down.  But what I said is true: you have a deep comfort about you, and I know you believe in a benevolent universe.  You’re fine with not knowing it all, with not being totally in control, ad that comfort is foreign and reassuring to me in equal measure.  It’s inspiring, too.  I want to be more like that.  Thank you for teaching me that – and a million other things, like how tall the average giraffe is – every day.

Dear, beloved Whit, my last baby, the person who completed our family, you dazzle me with your intelligence and your humor and mostly indefatigable good attitude. I described you recently as the sparkle in our family, and you are.  I’m grateful every single day that I get to be your mother, and I’ll love you all the days of my life.  Without reservation, without question, without hesitation.

Happy twelfth birthday,



January 20, 2005.  We all loved you from the start (the photographer too).

camp drop off


Another year.  Another camp drop off.  Her sixth summer, and his fourth.  The camp I adore.

Another reminder of the dizzying speed with which this world is spinning, with which the years are flying by.

Three years ago I wrote that I love right now more than I have any other moment of my life.  And that is still true.  I still love right now more than any other moment.  That fact is heartening, yes, but it’s also bittersweet: the years with Grace and Whit at home grow shorter, the shadows behind us lengthen.  I feel the same way about that indelible fact as I do about looking into their echoingly empty rooms: it’s like pushing on a bruise.  I can’t avoid the reminders of this life’s breathtaking beauty or its keen sorrow, nor the ineluctable drumbeat sound of time’s passage.


The truth is it was a difficult drop off.  There were some tears, which had also filled the days leading up to the 21st.  I wasn’t entirely prepared for these tears, this anxiety, this fear.  My children are getting older, camp is a familiar, joyful place – where was this uncertainty and clinginess coming from? Maybe it’s just about age and stage, as I’ve described before, a last gasp of attachment before the children (the teenager in particular) push off for the other shore for good.

It was a difficult morning, last Thursday.  I left even though I was being begged not to.  As we drove down the Cape, I was sad, confused, reminded yet again that the minute I think I have understood this life – her sixth summer, his fourth, we’ve got this! – I’m shown that in fact the only constant is change.

What I do know is that her cabin – Courageous – is well-named.  I know that she and Whit (who, in case you’re wondering, despite some challenges last summer, bounded into his cabin and shooed us out before his bed was even made) are in excellent hands. I know they will flourish. I know that even if there is some homesickness, the opportunity to face our difficulties and triumph is one not to be squandered.  We watched Grace do it last fall with cross-country, and I’m confident she will again.  In fact maybe the point is this discomfort; without some sorrow and some tears, we wouldn’t be maximizing this summer opportunity. Maybe. I am not sure. I know I miss my little soul mate, and her entertaining brother around whom everyday is a celebration. I miss them, but this is the right thing for them. So, courageous all, we forge head, separated by miles but connected by the raveling red yarn that ties our hearts.

Happy Fourth of July

Cousins, fireworks, sailing, candy, Nana’s birthday, and red, white, and blue.  This is one of my favorite holidays of the year.


Grace, 2005Whit-2005-374x500

Whit, 2005


Grace, 2006


Whit, 2006


Grace, 2007


Whit, 2007













We missed 2013 because of other-family obligations.  I hope never to again!

don’t count anyone out


Whit at bat.  He is #3.  In case you are curious, Babe Ruth played #3 for the Yankees.

This is Whit’s fourth year playing Little League in our town.  For the last three years he played in the “minor leagues,” for the Giants.  They were not a winning team.  For three straight years, they were bottom of the league.  6 of 8 minor league teams go to the playoffs, and Whit never went.  This year he was drafted into the “major leagues,” onto the Yankees.  It’s not a small thing for this Red Sox family to cheer enthusiastically for the Yankees, but we have, all season.

It has not been, shall we say, a winning season. Whit’s decided he’s a bad luck charm for baseball.  Heading into the final game they were 2-13.  Some of the losses have been close and others have been heroic (12-0).  The team is great and the coaches are wonderful and Whit’s improving and mostly it’s been a great experience, despite a fairly unrelenting series of losses.  The boys enjoy each other’s company and I’m consistently struck by how they talk to each other, on the field and off.  The coaches are mostly long-time coaches, whose own kids have moved onto older teams but who stuck with it out of passion and interest in the game.  The season is short and the commitment is manageable.  The other parents are great, from a mix of schools and across our neighborhood.  I love it, and so, mostly, does Whit.

We all came to the last game of the season expecting to go out with a whimper.  Hoping to keep the game in the “close” rather than “painful” category.  But this team of scrappy, mostly rookie players turned it around.  They shocked everyone – their parents and their opponents – by winning.  This meant that the other team was knocked out of contention for the top spot.

Our town’s major league has five teams.  One goes to the “mayor’s cup” (and the team we beat in the final game no longer had that option) and the other four go to the playoffs.  So Friday’s playoff game was Whit’s first in four years of Little League.  The Yankees came back to win it again.

Tuesday is the championship game.  I’m aware that this model of play – where the team with the worst record by a long shot can be in the finals – is flawed.  Still, it’s fun, and I’m struck by the lessons that fill team sports.  And I don’t mean the lessons taught by overzealous parents and expensive club sports (I have much ambivalence about the way youth sports have developed in our country or at least in my region).  Even in local, town little league, the learnings abound.

First and foremost, never, ever, ever give up.  You may turn things around in the last game of a disastrous 16 game season, but that’s worth a lot.

Respect your teammates.  Everyone on this team contributes and it’s a marvel to see.  There are no freeloaders.  Do your best.

Don’t goad others, for good or for bad.  Over the last few years, there have been boys at Whit’s school who have teased him for his poorly-performing teams.  I always encouraged him to try to ignore this line of talk, even though I know it stung. Similarly, we have always taught both kids not to draw attention to self when playing well (for example, dramatically celebrating goals is not ok in our house).  You can feel good and celebrate with your team.  But I know that Whit’s not teasing the kids whose teams he knocked out.

I did not play team sports as a kid, and so I’m learning all these things alongside Grace and Whit.  Hockey and cross-country have provided powerful lessons, and this season of baseball has too.  I’m grateful.

Farewell. Alleluia.

kids porch June 2016

Monday evening, June 6 – not the classic both-in-white photo, because they didn’t have the same last day.


June 4, 2015, their last last day together until high school

Today, we’re out of school.  Actually yesterday was Grace’s last day, and today is Whit’s.  It is the first year in a great many that they haven’t had the same last day of school.  Yesterday I spent some time wandering down memory lane, falling headfirst into the tunnel of nostalgia where I spend too much of my time.  This 2012 post has many years of photos.  And that was already four years ago.  I can feel time whistling by my ears, I really can. A tired cliche. And an outrageously deep truth.

I don’t have a fifth grader and a seventh grader anymore.  This year is over, finished, a door is closed.


And, also, allelulia: summer!  tennis! ice cream! camp! sleeping in! reading books!  There is so much to celebrate and I love summer.  We consciously under-schedule our summer and make very few commitments (other than sleepaway camp, which both kids go to and love), and as a result there are long empty days and evenings on the porch with family.  I can’t wait.

But I also feel sad at what’s over.  Farewell and alleluia coexist for me in inextricable ways.  This year, with its particular drop-off routines and rhythms, was a good one.  Just yesterday morning, Grace, Whit, Matt and I were having breakfast in the kitchen.  Grace yawned before complimenting the fried egg I’d made her while trashing the one her father had made her a few days before.  We all laughed but then I said, “just wait, guys, you’ll miss these mornings, all four of us in the kitchen.”  I poured myself another cup of coffee and explained that it wouldn’t be long until they would be homesick – at least a little – for this particular morning, drooping peonies on the island, a friend egg and Life cereal for Grace and a waffle and some yogurt for Whit.

The thing is, I already am.  I am nostalgic for yesterday.


The first last day they shared, June 9, 2010

This photo makes me physically ache.  Now they’re tall and lanky – Grace is within an inch of my height – and becoming the people they are.  Not that they always weren’t – in fact one of my primary learnings about parenthood is the way they are who they are from the minute they arrive – but they are young people now.  Childhood itself is in Grace’s rearview mirror, and it’s soon going to be there for Whit, too.


They are smart, and funny, and wise beyond their years.  They are sometimes also moody and irritable, and they leave dirty socks around the house and forgot where they put their water bottles.  But they are the light of my life, no question about it, and I love who they are more every single day.