More than a week ago we bought a Norelco triple-headed razor – which will someday trim the youthful fuzz from our middle-school son’s face. But he is not in a hurry to use it and we are not in a hurry either.
John’s face is growing swarthier. At almost 15, he is at the age when many boys have already begun the manly tradition of shaving. His mustache has turned from a faint brown to a more noticeable black; the downy hair along his sideburns and jawline is also starting to thicken. The Norelco waits in the wings like a mysterious black-clad actor, waiting for childhood to dance offstage. But John is our youngest and we are not ready for this moment, not yet. The box of wrestling action figures was just put away close to a year ago, when John was having friends over and didn’t want to explain why he still had them.
He had kept them in a plastic basket in the den, adding to his collection over eight birthdays and Christmases. For a while he would play with them every day, sometimes alone and other times with friends, adding dialog based on the outrageous back stories from the TV wrestling shows every Monday and Friday night. From the kitchen I could hear his “boosh!” sound when Battista clashed with Edge, or Sean Michaels took down Triple-H, or the Undertaker took down Randy Orton. The matches gradually disappeared. John no longer played with the action heroes when friends were around, only when he was alone. Then he stopped altogether.
So Orton, Cena, Edge, the Undertaker, Big Show and other WWE celebrities were banished to a plastic bin in a spare room, never to return. John’s playroom became his man cave at that point. He began playing Halo with his friends via X-box, watching You-Tube, disappearing into Tolkien novels. His facial hair became more noticeable.
Not long after we retired the wrestlers, we unearthed another forgotten action hero from an earlier era: A two-inch toy Michelangelo, the reptilian hero of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” He was encrusted with dirt after years of being buried in our yard but his smile was still reckless and cocky. It seems like yesterday that our older children were playing with Michelangelo and his fellow turtles – Leonardo, Rafael and Donatello – on sunlit afternoons that we thought would never end, until they did. When they put away those childish things we felt regret, but there was always one more baby-face left so the regret passed eventually.
So now, as our youngest child approaches his first shave, can anyone blame us for wanting to hold on to our baby-face a bit longer? Like a beard, adulthood will keep coming no matter how hard you try to keep it away.