I changed my avatar. That’s me at 9 years old. I loved that year. Every time my children have turned 9, I celebrate that year as though they’re graduating from college or getting married.
This is almost true. I’ve had 2 children graduate from high school — one a junior, another a sophomore in college — so I’ll soon know whether I’ll feel the same overwhelming joy of them earning their college degrees as I felt when they turned 9. College degrees are no measure of lifelong success, not now, not in this economy. But when you’re 9, you’ve entered the realm of reason and begin to enjoy the unfolding of life.
This is pretty much when my memory begins.
I have flashes of images — from old photographs not in my possession (isn’t that curious?): me, holding on to Mom’s elbow when she was a teacher’s aide at my old school. Me, about to embark on my first solo journey to San Antonio on a school trip. Me, celebrating my 9th birthday, surrounded by my family that had outgrown me — which is where my avatar comes from.
I was 8 years younger than my closest sibling. And, so, when I woke up to the world, everyone had already moved on. That’s how I became Dad’s sidekick.
I don’t remember having done everything with him, but I do remember tagging along when he went to McAllen for tv parts and schematics (tv repairman), when he prepped his classroom and stocked it with measured chemicals and bunsen burners (chemistry teacher), when he drove for miles, late on Friday nights to drop off film for our local football team (team photographer) .. I just hung out with Dad.
We didn’t have conversations that I remember. I don’t have photographs of those times. I’m probably the only one in this world who remembers him being peaceful in his solitude as I recall these moments, because I know I was such a diminutive presence when I was around. I kept Dad company, and he whistled.
He whistles still.