Friday, July 3, 2009
4th of July, and Happy Birthday, Jake !
Growing up, the 4th of July was always my favorite holiday, beating out Christmas and Thanksgiving... hands down.
There was just something special about summertime, warm weather, good food, the company of relatives... and to top it off, setting off our own fireworks while we waited for the "big" display that the town always had.
I just loved everything about it.
But in 1981, the 4th of July came to have a new - and even more special - meaning to me.
It was the day that my gorgeous little firecracker... my Jacob Christopher came into my life.
The day my son Jake was born.
Now, he was due to be born in mid-June, but he always was a stubborn little guy and he waited until the 3rd of July to even decide to come into the world.
And by then, I was more than ready to have him present himself, let me tell you!
It was a hard labor, and I was more than ready for him to come out, but my husband at the time (the infamous "he who shall remain nameless") thought it would be cool if we had a 4th of July baby, so he kept telling me to hang on... it's only another 7 hours until midnight.
Hang on... only another 4 hours.
Hang on... hang on....
I wanted that baby out, and I wanted it out NOW, but he wasn't born until 14 minutes past midnight.
Because Jake always did things in his own time.
But it was always worth the wait.
I had my very own little firecracker and life was good. Jake was a good baby and a sweet child, and I couldn't have asked for more.
Except for maybe more time with him.
I have great memories to look back on, and there are times that I feel that Jake and God gave me those good memories, to help ease the pain of what was to come.
Like the time when Jake was about 7 and he came running downstairs, naked as a jaybird, right after his bath.... only to skid to a total stop, when he saw that Pastor Gary and one of the church ladies were visiting...
Now, I raised my kids right, and I raised them with manners, so what did Jake do?
He covered his privates with both hands, then stuck his one hand out to shake Pastor Gary's hand, saying "it's nice to see you sir", while keeping his doodle covered with the other.
Then he high-tailed it back upstairs, making sure to keep his doodle covered... but his shiny little bottom was still in full view of everyone.
Thanksgiving 1990, my dear penpal from New Jersey - Elise - had come for a visit, and she and my daughter and I were in the house having a good old time, putting on a fashion show, videoing it, and just acting silly, you know?
Jake was outside, keeping himself occupied climbing the old Oak tree at the top of the driveway.
Well, I guess he climbed up there, took off his belt to sort of tie himself to a big old branch, not even realizing that there were red ants in that tree.
The ants started biting, Jake couldn't get the belt undone, so he had to shimmy out of his pants and climb down the tree, starkers.
The first we knew of it was when he burst into the house naked from the waist down, screaming:
"Ants were biting me and I yelled and yelled for you, and you never came! You're nothing but a bunch of GIRLS, and I HATE you! LOOK AT MY PENIS! The ants bit my penis, and if it falls off, it will be YOUR fault, you stupid girls!!! I'm gonna tell my teacher on you!
Of course, we were just rolling on the floor with laughter at the thought of him going to school and telling the teacher, and the more we laughed, the madder he got...
So his parting shot as he stomped upstairs was:
"I hope the ants bite YOU on your stupid penis's, so YOU know what it feels like, and then I'll laugh at you! I hope ALL your penis's fall off!!!
When Jake was little, he always thought that everyone celebrated the 4th of July in his honor, so when he would go with his dad and sister and brother to "man" the Fireworks booth for the CHP ( California Highway Patrol) he would invite everyone to his birthday party.
As he got older, he would would hint and beg for people to donate some kind of firework for his party, so that he could celebrate in "style". That was his actual word...
"Gee, wouldn't it be nice if I had one of those packs of sparklers (roman candles, Chinese Wheels etc) for my birthday? I could really celebrate my birthday in style..."
And you know, coming from a small town like that, there were always folks who would buy extras, just so Jake could have one!
Like I said, I raised my kids right, and I was prouder ... am still prouder - of all of them, than any mother has a right to expect.
Jake loved nothing more than going to the post office with me, and if he saw someone with their arms full of packages, he loved to run to open the door for them.
Old ladies were escorted to their cars, while Jake carried their extra packages for them... and if they attempted to pay him for his efforts, he always said
"No thank you mam... I'm just using my manners, and I don't need the money."
The last time I spoke to Jake on the phone, he told me that he had met the girl of his dreams, and he was going to marry her.
He kept saying that "She's a living doll, Mom, and you're going to love her."
It was Cheyenne this... and Cheyenne that... and it was clear that he loved this girl... and it did my heart good.
Jake was good and kind and funny and warm-hearted... and he would stick at something, never giving up, until he had accomplished it.
And he always had a heart of gold.
His final act on this earth, was to jump into the ocean and try and save his girlfriends brother.
Only this time, Jake didn't accomplish what he set out to do... and we lost both him and Mason that day. Cheyenne barely survived herself, because she had jumped in as well.
I lost my beautiful, sweet, youngest son on October 10th, 1999... and my world has never been the same since.
Now, on the 4th of July - Jake's Birthday - I always set off an entire box of sparklers, in his memory... and for the time it takes for them to fizz and sparkle and burn away, I get to live in another time and place.
If only for a while.
Happy Birthday Jake.
Your Mama misses you more than you know.