Noah turned 12 today. To celebrate his big day, we sang him the happy birthday song, went out for dinner in his honor, and swapped stories about how big he's gotten in the last year. Those puppy feet my wife always speaks about? He's growing into them. Fast.
What made this birthday different from the 11 previous ones is that he wasn't here. He's in camp. First time. We dropped him off in Toronto early yesterday morning, then waved as he and his friends - some from school, lots more new - headed off in a convoy of busses. Hard? Sure. But if any kid was ready for this kind of adventure, it was him. We have no doubt he'll suck up every minute of the experience and figure out ways to bring some of that spirit back home to us. Knowing how much he'll enjoy being there makes missing him a little easier to manage. Just a little, though, as the house is really quiet without him. Even the dog senses a change, and he'll occasionally wander into his room, then wander out when he doesn't find his buddy.
The camp policy is that kids who celebrate their birthdays during their time up north are allowed to phone home. So he called us around suppertime, and we all gathered around the phone while the voice of this happy, tired, slightly changed boy filtered through the distance.
Before he left, he wrote letters to all of us, including the dog. He thanked us for sending him, told my wife she's his favorite person in the whole world, hugged us time and again, just because. He's still our cuddly little man, still more sweet than anything else, still empathetic in ways that make me want to be a better person.
He took a big step away from us yesterday, and I have no doubt when we pick him up at the end of camp, he'll be filthy on the outside, filled with stories and experiences on the inside, and a little bit bigger, a little bit more worldly in every other way. We can't stop time from turning him into the adult he's destined to be, but we can try to freeze-frame the moments along the way of what's already been a remarkably charmed journey not only for him, but for us.
Happy birthday, little man. Always know we're here for you, wherever here happens to be.