Ethan turned four, yesterday. I asked him, "How old are you?"
"I'm three years old," he said.
"Nope. It's your birthday today. That makes you four years old." He giggled and looked at me sideways, the way he does when he can't figure out if I'm serious or pulling his leg.
"Silly mommy. I'm three years old," he said.
Four years and eight months ago, a faint pink line announced him to me. He was a tiny parasite, with a beating heart; I was his host. I began talking to him when no one was around, as I had to each child before--beginning with the first, unwelcome one, who took root in my immature womb. I held the secret close, then, because I was afraid; but I let it sink deep into me and fill me with wonder.
I held the secret of Ethan, too. I talked to him, let him sink in and waited for the wonder. I wasn't ready. I wasn't well. I was afraid.
His birth was a miracle, for the ordinary reason of new and tender life. His perfect lungs gulped up the air of our world--air polluted by cruelty and want, and made pure through love and beauty. He cried, and he purified the room with his trembling wails.
It was a miracle, too, because a holy stillness caught and held me, and I labored without pain. I fell silent, listened and waited for the wonder.
"I'm three years old" is a phrase of definition and identity, which my son has applied to himself for a whole year--as long as he remembers. Yesterday, I took that away and gave him a new tag to wear. Four years ago, he had already re-named me by the time I blessed his wet head with my lips.
Ethan talked to his grandmother today. I held the phone to his ear and kissed his forehead. He said, "Hi Grandma. I'm four years old."