He was a blond curly headed sweet natured little boy who roared like a lion and barked like a dog long before he had any words. He had a puppy named Stuart whom he called his brother. Not much has changed. Stuart at 12 is more like an older uncle now, but Zoe the cat loves no other human more than she loves her Eli. When she was his Christmas kitten a few years ago her feet didn’t touch the floor for two weeks. He called himself her mommy, because she was a baby and as he explained, babies need mommies more than daddies at first. These weren’t the gender neutral roles his parents postured, but they seemed clear to him nonetheless. Mommy was a role which had nothing to do with gender. He spoke to Zoe in meows and still to this day when he meows she comes running from wherever she is to be near wherever he is. There is Eloise the big Bernese Mountain dog who followed him protectively in the city and barks at any kid who’s games of chase get too wild for her tastes. Don’t mess with Eli. There is also Pippi, ostensibly his sister’s dog, and for whom Eli has a special voice. They are best friends in that special way kids and dogs have always known. They say that animals can always tell instinctively about a person’s character. Even the penguins swim up to the glass to see Eli at the aquarium….
He was a hip city kid for the first seven years. We played chess in a cool coffee shop on a noisy city street every morning before kindergarten. Then we moved to Vermont and he discovered the mountains, with their waterfalls and rivers. He moved outside where he lives still. We became homeschoolers together and studied history through the eyes of a little boy. Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone came back to life. I was raising Tom Sawyer. There was an Easter egg hunt where Eli and the pack of boys he runs with played a game that ended with a lady in an Easter pink pantsuit crying, ” there he goes, stop that kid”, words Eli said he had been waiting all his life to hear. It had been about ten years at that point.
Eli is one of the funniest people I have ever known. He has an unerring talent for imitation. And in many ways we are raising my husband. It is a special treat for me to get to fall in love with him all over again at every age. John often says, after Eli has said some ironic slightly inappropriate thing as he takes the reigns of his humor, “he says what I think”. It is a keen pleasure to be a member of the audience.
Today Eli turned thirteen. We had a coming of age party for him, and our friends and family sent their blessings from around the country. His brother and sister came home from school and we all cooked together and then read Eli all of the messages around a big bonfire before we burned them and sent our hopes and prayers, wishes and blessings into the universe in a cloud of love and smoke. There were funny stories and sweet memories. So many noted his humor and his relationships with the animals. Lots of us reminded him that kindness will get you through almost anything as we wished him traveling mercies on his road to manhood. Happy Birthday Eli. You have brought us all pleasure every day for thirteen years. I can’t wait for what comes next….