Making Out: Ballad for My Son, Dylan & Variation

Making Out is a series centered on how Jess Burnquist, mother, writer, and teacher is "making out' as she processes adolescent issues amid the glare of parenthood and the shadows of nostalgia.

for Andrew

after “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall”

Oh where have you been, my blue eyed son?

And where have you been, my darling young one?

He’s been to the field to play soccer with new friends--

He’s missed the foul ball but counted dozens of ladybugs.

He’s been to preschool with dough and sand numbers.

He’s made me a card with hearts and sweet tidings.

And when he did count the ladybugs we shielded our eyes, not from the sun but from our son’s blond, blue-sky brightness. And when he counted ahead we asked him to slow down. And when he sent love we preserved it on shelves. What is preserved still fades, but how it feels remains like a ghost in the skin.

Oh, what did you see, my blue eyed son?

And what did you see, my darling young one?

He’s seen two houses and thousands of sunsets

He’s seen his pet cat and pet dog move beyond time

He’s seen his dear sister born into our family

He’s seen how guidance can work from a distance

Distance behaves erroneously and time is a close talker. I am at odds with this pair because they pose as natural and it is impossible to make them stop--impossible to preserve the now without a taint of their fear. Our son keeps us at an appropriate distance and seems to need us less. Such distance makes the heart grow with nostalgia for his small self. His containable self. His baby clutching, his suckling and once I was so beholden by him--so seen.

And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?

And what did you hear, my darling young one?

He’s heard lullabies and scolding in near equal measure

He’s heard banks full of pennies and their echo chambers

He’s heard laughter and love between father and mother

He’s heard questions and questions about his becoming

Before his sister was born, I balanced him upon my belly and we danced in the afternoon light to songs with golden chords. For three fevered days, I stroked his head pressing a cool compress to his cherub skin and told him adventures in which he was the hero. Before primary school ended, he heard the truth of things unspoken.

Oh, what did you meet my blue-eyed son?

Who did you meet, my darling young one?

He’s met the world with fearless intention.

He’s met each failure with undaunting resilience

He’s met each riddle with deep consideration

He’s met our love without putting up fences

On his first walking-Halloween we had to run to keep up. He was dressed up as Tigger and he literally bounced from house to house. The candy was a byproduct-- his love was for the ritual. Knock and thou shalt receive. Knock and may your prayers be answered. Knock and may you be met with peace. Knock and may we always be home.

And what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?

And what’ll you do now my darling young one?

He’ll discover wars and choose not to fight them

He’ll whittle his courage down to a single question

He’ll find the right someone to spend his whole life with

He’ll look back on this time and hopefully smile.

When he pulls his car out of the driveway, the morning sun causes a glare and I mistake him for his father. Their shoulders are broad and they can carry the weight of this life. That my son once fit inside of me and so close to my heart is astounding. How time pulls our connection into a tenuous string as if to be strummed, made whole. My son will be fine and so will his song.

About Jess