“I know what I want to be when I grow up!,” he exclaimed as we pulled away from school. “What’s that,?” I asked. “An architect!” Being a fan of architects and architecture, this thrills me. Our youngest is named after one of Chicago’s best known architects, so it’s definitely kind of a thing for me. “Do architects design just the outside of a building, or the inside, too?,” the boy asked.
I went on to explain that it depended on the architect. Some leave the insides to interior architects or interior designers. Others, like Frank Lloyd Wright, designed everything down to the window screens in his creations, even choosing paint colors and lamp shades. We drove a few moments in silence, me fantasizing about just what my boy might create, my boy, well, he was already reconsidering a life designing buildings.
“You know, if you’re interested (please be interested!), we could go tour some of Frank Lloyd Wright’s homes in Oak Park,” I offered. “No. I changed my mind. I don’t want to be an architect anymore.” “What? Why? What changed your mind?, ” I asked. “Those buildings take up too much space. I don’t want to be the one responsible for taking away the home of some animals.”
Sheesh. Just when I start to worry that I might be raising a sociopath, he goes and says something as sweet as that. Hashtag grateful.
The conversation went on to cover things like eco-friendly architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright’s use of only natural elements, and then, eventually, as all conversations with my seven year old seem to do these days, on to Minecraft.
I knew as soon as we pulled into our parking space to return home that I wanted to preserve this conversation with my boy. He is changing and growing so quickly these days. He spends so much time away from home, is deeply engaged by things like Minecraft and Club Penguin that I don’t really understand, and poof, before I know it, he will have a moustache and be out the door.
He lost both his front teeth in the past week, so there is a lisp to many of his words right now. Listening to that lisp creates a tenderness towards him that recalls his infancy. Oh, do I love him, and ache for his childhood being gone, despite being smack dab in the thick of it.
Seven is interesting, too, because while I have a few memories of my own time as a young child — 4, 5, and 6, I feel like all the memory files started storing properly when I turned seven. And my seven is so very different from my boy’s seven.
I remember how proud I felt when I was asked to do a reading at school mass in front of all the other kids and teachers.
I remember the smell of my grandparents’ home and the taste of my Baba’s fresh bread. She used butter, none of that margarine we used.
I remember having to get my hair cut when my Mom went to work — she had a job where she started early and would no longer have the time to wrangle my tangles first thing. She got me a Dorothy Hamill wedge cut, much like the one she wore herself, except I had massively curly hair. Curls and wedge cuts do not a good combo make.
I remember my best friend, Allan Murin, and all the summer evenings we spent together, talking until the sun went down and it was time to go inside.
I remember my First Holy Communion dress and all the photos from that day, my hands dutifully posed in front of me, praying for what, I don’t know.
I remember the Fonz and all the 50s themed parties we went to wearing poodle skirts and bobby sox, the little neighborhood boys trying to each look tougher than the other. The ones with parents who smoked got to roll empty cigaratte packs into their t-shirt sleeves.
I remember still being afraid of the tall slide at the local park and the rocket ship slide at the town’s big park? No way would I go near it.
Seven has legs for me, even as a woman in her mid-40s, so there is an awareness, an appreciation that these are the days my son will remember now. Not an abstract sense of the time, but defined moments and details. They will stay with him and keep him company when he parents his own kids some day.
And maybe, just maybe, some day far into the future, he will remember that time he wanted to be an architect before deciding against it, then running inside to eat a warm chocolate chip cookie his Mom made him, just because.