I sat and I stared at him. His glistening blue eyes, his strong muscular forearms and his manly remnants of facial hair around his chin and neck made him look deceivingly older than he actually was. He wore his baseball cap turned backwards: partly because he liked the look, but mostly to pat down his wild mop of curly, coarse hair. I am sure the glass of wine in my hand added to my appreciation of him, but to me, he was the vision of perfection. I had him to myself for the entire night, and I was taking him to see his first ever concert as an early sixteenth birthday present. His sixteenth birthday is a milestone for both of us – for him it represents the long awaited prospect of a ‘ticket to freedom’ that is learning how to drive. For me, the first one of my tribe to reach this signpost along the teen path to adulthood.
It is such a cliché, but honestly, I don’t have a clue where the time has gone.
The fact that U2, one of Master Z’s favourite bands of all time were touring Brisbane at this momentous time seemed like it was meant to be. Lisa graciously had said she would stay home and watch the other children so he and I could share the occasion together, just the two of us. I bought tickets immediately, and kept the information to myself until about a week before, when I needed to tell him from a logistics perspective. ‘You are kidding?’ he said, as the smile crept over his face and reality set in. ‘I can’t believe it – it will be EPIC – thank you!’ U2 tunes bellowed from his room during the week before and I knew he was in for the night of his life. I could not wait to share it with him.
We arrived early to the concert, keen to beat the crowds and have a bite to eat together before the show. After a few choice photos for the album, and the purchase of his birthday present from his grandmother – a shirt from the concert, we made our way along Caxton street to find a bite to eat. The Paddo Tavern beckoned and we sat together, fortunate enough to find a corner table in amongst the other concert-goers with the same idea. The atmosphere was electric. Master Z commented that it wouldn’t be long before he would be able to order a beer for himself. I realised in shock that in two short years my boy would be a child no longer. These two years will fly by as the others have and my eldest – my firstborn – will be a man.
For the seasoned parents out there who have been through all this before, I have no doubt that these realisations are old news – trite even.
My apologies if so. But for those of us who are first-timers at this rodeo, the reality is wondrously terrifying. Wondrous in that we have these stunning creatures that we have made and nurtured, who epitomise every sense of pride we have in our own achievements, and terrifying in that these magnificent specimens are almost ready to be let loose on the world – without us there to chaperone them.
As I sat and stared at my beautiful boy, I tried to press an imaginary ‘pause button’, and to capture everything as it was in that moment in my memory. The surroundings, the people, the vibe, the intimacy of just having the two of us, and lock it away – lock it away in my memory forever. Because as my darling boy grows, there will be many more ‘firsts’ that he will experience that won’t be mine to share with him anymore. Friends, partners, work colleagues, fellow students – all these people who continue to be welcomed into his ever-widening web will delight in these new ‘firsts’ throughout his life, and I will be a fixture in the background, no longer the centre of his world.
And this is exactly as it should be.
All the same, I will miss it, and him, more than he will ever know.
I held his hand as he watched in awe as some of his favourite songs were played by one of the greatest ever bands of all time. As he sang along, clapped and cheered, my heart smiled and I revelled in his youthful happiness.
What a perfect way to introduce my big boy into all that the wonderful experiences that await him in the future.