Today (the day I write this) is Alexander's birthday; he's six. And I am here to tell you that there is a huge difference between being five (5) and being six (6). He's taller in body, yes, but also in stature of mind and attitude. Not something I would expect so practically overnight, though now that I think about it, I could see bits of it coming, a word here, a shrug there. He doesn't like to be called cute or handsome or tootsie pie (well, I will give him that...); he is Alexander, plain and dignified.
But there is the Alexander that stays the same, too...his affection, his humor, his energy--goodness! what energy!--and his need to be his own person and do his own things (that is, do things his own way).
Mostly he is concerned that things should stay the same, even while he grows beyond it. There he inherits the child's greatest wish: to keep the world safely around him, while he takes his own good time wandering in it.
You are hearing this from a person who has used writing as her best form of communication all her life...a bookworm, a wordsmith, a close listener to the tales of others. Papers at conferences? Ok, but only to share a conversation with a group of people present and already interested, and then we would all go out to dinner and then go home and back to teaching and doing something about something. Whatever the rules are, I too prefer to do things my own way. (Some people might call that stubborn; Alexander and I just ignore them.)
There is another side to that trait: a woman I once worked with (Colleen something I can't bring up now, though I remember her as if she were sitting right here smirking at me, imposing, acerbically funny, caring, and fun to be with) once said to me on greeting, "Ah, Rachel...still trying to save the world?" It took me back for a minute, but then it set me forward, too.
And yet another: the need for belonging, which in funny ways contradicts my great need for solitude, for having regular space around me to think and not think. The pleasure in friends (and that includes family), both long-time and nearby, and in their correspondence or in sharing walks or spontaneous visits during which we can catch up with each other, in sharing holiday tables. Alexander and I like cooking for people; we like finding their pleasure in being so served. Likewise, my happiness in finding myself in a neighborhood as neighborly as ours comes from the same source. Further than that is my tendency to be the gatherer of information about who is where and doing what...not unlike Alexander who knows where every single child in his class is on the playground at any moment. It can lead to one more trait fortunately now dropped from use: to find myself in charge of whatever organization I volunteer for.
So on these birthdays, I celebrate, gratefully, that Alexander and I are part of each other's everyday theoretical and practical working world.