My son, Ian needed a photo for a bio so he and my photographer daughter went out in the garden for a photo shoot. He picked a different photo for the bio, but I liked this one the best.
Seventeen sounds so much older than sixteen. Seventeen sounds almost adult-like, and rings of moving on, moving up, and moving out. Our eldest son, Ian, turned seventeen earlier this week. He has one more year of high school, and if his plans work out he and his guitars will head to a college in Vancouver that has a renowned jazz program. He can't wait to get to the city where he was born.
He wasn't raised in the city, though - far from it. When he was but a week old, we bundled Ian up in his car seat and moved to Cranbrook in the East Kootenays, where my husband had landed a job with BC Parks. Ian was a chubby, bald little fellow, generally happy and mild mannered, a little mischevious with a stubborn streak. All of that still holds except for the chubby and bald part, and the mischeviousness has grown into a great sense of humour. I was 23 when he was born and I used to tell people, jokingly, "This is my son, Ian. We grew up together." While I took to motherhood like a fish to water, I found that, like most younger moms, I still had a lot of my own growing up to do, too.
Ian has been what I have termed a 'serial passionist'. It started with trucks and tractors, moved on to dinosaurs, then wild animals. With each new passion he would read and study everything there was to know about the subject exclusively. After the wild animal phase was done with he decided that hockey was 'it', but we put him in soccer - a game much better suited to his lanky frame (and our sensibilities as parents). He still plays competitively and enjoys the game very much in general, but once he had his hands on a guitar, music completely took over unlike any other passion he has ever had. I had decided even before I had children that they would take music lessons. Ian was not interested in the piano so he picked the other instrument we owned - an acoustic guitar. He took lessons for a few years but soon branched out on his own. His second music teacher taught him how to read tabulature (a number system for guitar, instead of music notes) and, thanks to the internet, which is chock full of 'tab', Ian has taught himself, by practising for hours and hours, how to be an accomplished guitarist. When he was starting to show real promise, at about age twelve, I played him Dire Straits' 'Sultans of Swing', to show him the famous Mark Knopfler guitar solo. "I'm going to learn that," he said in his firm, decided way. And he did. We began to share a real interest in music and it's so (I can't think of any other word to describe it) neat when he calls me into his room or over to the computer to show me a new artist he has discovered. In turn, I sometimes will be heard saying things like, "You should really hear Nina Simone sing that song," or "Can I borrow your Miles Davis album?"
Ian plays percussion for the wind ensemble in his school, and guitar for the jazz ensemble. He's already an experienced performer, with some coaching from his dad on how to conduct oneself in front of an audience, and has a rock/folk/alternative band that practises in our garage. Thanks to one musical cousin in particular (professional musician James Lamb) he is making connections in the music world already. He was invited to audition for the Youth Ignite Arts Festival in Vancouver, was accepted, and will perform in a couple of weeks. There's nothing lazy about Ian when it comes to music (and a lot lazy when it comes to cleaning his room), and I am so excited for him.
Accomplishments aside, I have come to trust the judgement of my level-headed steel-blue eyed first born. We have good talks in the kitchen when I'm cooking supper, about teenagers, about art and music, about how life is going to be when he leaves us. On Tuesday, about four in the afternoon I got inspired to make Ian a birthday card. I looked through a box of old photos and found one of him, at age eight, climbing one of the many wooden ladders on the West Coast Trail, and I immediately thought of Bob Dylan's song, 'Forever Young'. While I pasted the photo on the front of the card, I wiped away a few bittersweet tears pricking the corners of my eyes. Underneath the photo I wrote, "May you build a ladder to the stars, and climb on every rung." Inside the card I pasted another photo of Ian at age seven, perched atop a large tree stump at the lodge where we used to live (in both photos he is wearing a hat, just like now), and under that I wrote, "and may you stay forever young". I printed out the words to the song and pasted them in the card, too.
Later, when we were eating the coconut cake with chocolate ganache that he had requested I make for his birthday, we all gave him his presents. When he read my card, he looked at me with those wonderful eyes and said, "Mom, thank you. I really like the card. It's the best." Inside, fireworks of happiness were going off in my heart, but I didn't let it show too much - Ian doesn't like fuss. But I think, somewhere inside him, he knew how I felt, and he was grateful for my love, and for the love of his dad, and for all our hope and belief in him.
"Forever Young" by Bob Dylan
May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
may you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
And may you stay forever young.
May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
may you stay forever young
May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young.