My youngest is about to graduate from college! With the final tuition check written, we are all now launched into the next exciting chapter of the game of Life.
It’s always hard to see how grown-up your baby has become, but landmarks like these are a good time to try.
Ever since he was little, Josh has had a soft spot for animals — which wasn’t easy, growing up with a mother who allowed nothing larger than a brine shrimp into the house. I was especially firm on the subject after learning that Josh was allergic to cat dander.
But love found a way. One day, Josh came home from a playdate with red blotches on both cheeks — the same size and shape as his fingertips. “What happened?” I asked, in alarm.
“There were kittens!” he answered.
Had he handled them? How could he not? They were irresistible. Or, as Josh put it, “They were almost too cute for their own good.”
Josh’s soft heart extended to imaginary beings as well.
In first grade, I went with his class to a show at the Hofstra Playhouse. For some reason, we had a very long wait after we were seated. I could feel Joshua next to me getting nervous, but I had no books or anything else to distract him.
In desperation, I made a little puppet with my hand — like a sock puppet, but without a sock. “I’m scared,” the puppet said to Josh. “This is such a big place! It’s making me nervous.”
Josh’s demeanor instantly changed. “Don’t be scared,” he told the puppet. “We’re all friends here.” It was magical! He forgot all his own nervousness in order to help someone else.
There were other, less peaceful worlds. Josh and his older brother developed an alternative planet, “Alklon,” where the rival nations of “Cal” and “Lin” battled every day. To this day, there is a closet door off the kitchen labeled “Calish prison” with masking tape. There were countless maps of each army’s territory. There were even fight songs. Cal’s ended with, “We may not always win, But at least we are not Lin!”
For much of his youth, Josh was a passionate advocate for Long Island’s secession from New York, so it could become its own state. He had a name for it — New Island, a state bird — the seagull — and a motto: “If you don’t live here, you suck!” (What else would you expect from a Yankees fan?) He and his brother — a staunch anti-secessionist — bickered continually over where the border should be drawn, so that driving around the Belt Parkway to visit one grandmother or another, their Dad and I were subjected to running commentary: “Now we’re in New Island,” “Now it’s New York,” “We’re back in New Island,” “Now we’re back in New York” … all the way to New Jersey.
I finally learned what had triggered the idea. We had been on one of those trips, watching the weather on a hotel room TV somewhere, when Josh was outraged to see that they hadn’t even bothered to show Long Island on the map. “If we were our own state,” he said, “they’d have to include us.”
Perhaps it’s being the younger brother, but Josh has always been on the alert for injustice, everywhere.
He thought it massively unfair that mules couldn’t have babies. I tried, in a sanitized way, to explain genetics and sterility, but he kept insisting… until one day there was a news story of a mule who had had a baby. “See, Mommy? You should have believed me.”
Josh’s interest in imaginary maps segued to mastery of real ones. One time, on one of the many days I was chauffeuring him around Long Island, I voiced my doubts about how to get home. “Take the Northern State, Mom,” came a voice from the back seat. “It’ll be shorter from here.” Darned if he wasn’t right.
Eventually, Joshua’s interest in politics led him to a double major in Economics and Middle Eastern Studies. His father and I, having barely escaped college with one major each, advised our son not to bite off more than he could chew, but it certainly appears that he’s done it — and with flying colors!
We are so burstingly proud of this boy.
So here’s to Joshua — with congratulations on successfully navigating us all to this wonderful day: Kudos, and Mazel Tov!