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Oye, he’s a man already?

Yesterday was a milestone day for me. My almost 11 year old son, Levi, got his Bar Mitzvah date for 2013. That may sound a ways off to you. But to me, it sounded a lot more like a speeding train careening out of control. I laughed. I cried. It was totally surreal. I mean, how could my baby, who I’d swear was just born last week, be approaching the Jewish equivalent of manhood. Yikes.

In addition to that, I had to take both boys to the orthodontist for their first appointments. Learning that braces are in our future was another minor shock to my system, and not just because of the impending financial commitment these wire jaw molders will require.

Finally, I took Levi shoe shopping and was astonished to learn that the petite paw that once fit easily into the palm of my hand, had reached the substantial size of 9 mens, surpassing my impossible to fit size 9 and a half AA in women’s. Honestly, my 11 year old son has shoes that are bigger than mine? How could that possibly be?

We went to the pool that same day. Levi begged to race me across it. Suddenly I flashed back to my youthful self, a summer’s day, at the pool with my dad. “Oh, come on,” the tween me begged. “Just race me once, the width of the pool!” Finally, my dad acquiesced and we prepared for one all out swimathon across the Olympic sized public swimming pool in Prosel Park, across from our home in Lincolnwood, Il. “On your mark…get ready…set…GO!” I tore across that pool with the determination of a Gold Medalist. When I reached the other side, winded and panting, I emerged from the water to a horrible sight. My heart sank as I saw my infallible pop swimming the final strokes towards me at the side of the pool. At first, I gleefully chanted a few bars of “I won! I won! I finally beat you.” But after a moment, I saw clearly what that victory actually meant. That time was passing. That life was fleeting. That one generation makes way for the next. It was sad. Heartbreaking in a way I will never forget.

“No racing today,” I announced definitively. My fragile heart couldn’t take one more jolt. No. I was still faster, stronger and physically omnipotent in a way I wasn’t willing to risk losing. There’ll be time for more races. Time for his growing body and soul to surpass me in all of its endeavors. Just not today. Not yet.

Instead, I grabbed him and twirled around as fast as I could. I spun him round and round madly until he was giggling hysterically, all the while reciting the familiar hymn from years past, “…Motorboat, motorboat, go so fast. Motorboat, motorboat, step on the gas!!!!”

Granted, it was silly, I’ll even admit it was cheap. But at that moment, I would have done anything to hear that boyish giggle and watch his sweet eyes flicker with glee as he let go of his body and fell deeply into my strong embrace.

About gettrich

Debra Rich Gettleman is a professional actor, playwright and journalist living in Oklahoma City with her husband Mark and two amazing boys, Levi and Eli.

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