Today is my son’s birthday. If you’re lucky enough to know Kipp, you might celebrate different things about him – not because he transforms himself into someone different with everyone he meets in hopes of gaining some invisible stamp of approval, but because he is such a delightfully complex and multi-faceted person who is interested in and excels at so many different things.
I celebrate his willingness to take risks – not stupid risks, but educated risks. He digs in, researches, asks questions, and learns before he leaps. Most of the time, anyway. There was the StartUp Weekend in Boulder when he’d gone to scope it out in preparation for presenting one of his three good ideas the following year. But at the last minute – and I do mean very last minute – he stood up, presented one of his ideas, formed his team, developed the prototype company over the weekend, and 48 hours later, he’d won the big prize. (So it all worked out.) There’s also the fact that while he was still sleeping on the floor of some friend’s uncle, he learned his way around Los Angeles by delivering food. And there’s the skydiving, which is pretty daring, if you ask me. (He’s also a certified skydiving instructor, too, if you’re interested.)
Speaking of skydiving, I’d like to take this opportunity to say how much I celebrate the caring and consideration he shows by calling me on the way to any jump then calling me again on his way home from the jump.
I celebrate his willingness to say “I don’t know” right out loud.
I celebrate his knowing that you can learn more about humans and their relationships from poetry, music, art, and literature than from any psychology class or textbook.
I celebrate his creativity that erupts in the poetry, songs, and essays he writes; in the acting he does on film and on stage; in the open mic events I hope he’ll find his way back to.
I celebrate that he is a wildly creative young man who also balances his checkbook.
I celebrate his dependability – if Kipp tells you he’ll do something, you can move on to something else knowing he will do what he promised. And he holds himself accountable, never accepting the blame for others but not shoving blame on others, either.
I celebrate his unwillingness to take a bunch of crap (which is to say his willingness to stand up for himself). On his first day at the new, private middle school, a big fat kid looked at the short, small Kipp, got right up in Kipp’s personal space, starred down into Kipp’s retinas, and barked “You ought to go back to kindergarten” to which Kipp said without missing a beat, “And you ought to go back to Weight Watchers.”
I celebrate his whipsmart and varied intelligences that spring from all parts of his brain.
I celebrate his gentleness and his love of traditions. Kipp got his first stitches when he was in first grade, and we went for ice cream afterwards to make this a celebratory Milestone Life Event. Years later when Alison got her first stitches, Kipp called me in the ER to say that he wanted to pay for her celebratory ice cream.
I celebrate his sense of place . . . when the last box left the house he’d grown up in, Kipp and I spent a few minutes sitting on the front stoop, laughing and crying as we told stories as our way of thanking the house for sheltering us while transitioning into new shelter. It was a tender moment that I’ll remember long after I’ve forgotten his name.
I celebrate his thoughtfulness, his empathetic nature, his bend towards self-reliance.
I celebrate his self-awareness . . . Though he was slow to warm to swimming lessons (I don’t mean swimming lessons in general, but slow to warm to each and every weekly swimming lesson), afterwards he sat in the backseat shivering partly from the chill of a wearing a wet swimsuit in an air conditioned car and partly from the excitement of going straight to his grandmother’s swimming pool for more swimming. The day he went off the diving board at swimming lessons, he went straight to YeaYea’s diving board, walked resolutely to the end of the board, and stood there shivering, his little hands clasped in front of him as he looked down at the water, eventually turning to me and saying, “Mom, I guess you’re just gonna’ have to push me.”
I celebrate his attention to detail and his strive for the remarkable, though he is overly hard on himself sometimes . . . like the time he was learning to ride his bike. He got to the end of the driveway, and as he attempted to turn onto the road, he fell. He took a minute to look at his scraped knee, then picked himself and the bike up, walked it back up to the top of the driveway, and started over, falling again. This time he boo-hooed (and I mean loudly). “Are you okay?” his dad asked rushing over to check on him. “Yeah,” Kipp said, “I’m fine, but I FELL IN THE SAME SPOT.”
I celebrate Kipp’s sense of hospitality, his sense of humor, his precociousness. When I asked our pediatrician why baby Kipp wouldn’t stop crying, she said it’s because he was a 40 years old man trapped in a baby’s body. This woman of science told me that, and she was absolutely right.
I celebrate Kipp’s willingness to be vulnerable and his ability to let other people be vulnerable without rushing to make it better or fix anything. I celebrate his sensitivity, his desire to be his ow man, and how he lives with diabetes, taking good care of himself without whining and complaining of all the extra steps that involves for him.
I celebrate my lucky stars and swimmers and eggs that all came together to place Kipp in my arms, in my heart, in my life. As he said that one Christmas, rubbing the sleep from his eyes as he looked down on what Santa had left under the tree: “I didn’t know I be’ed this good.” Whatever I did i a former life, it had to be pretty darn special.
I call him Slug because he is the hottest coal that keeps my fires burning. Happy birthday, Kipp. I love you more than my pocketbooks.