We always talk about the miracle of birth. That pales in comparison to the miracle of two young naive free spirited people raising that child to adulthood without inflicting permanent damage on his psyche. I think we did it. Or I should say I hope we did it. Right from the start, we set the stage for him with our one-two punch of misspelling his first name and finding as many letters as possible to put into his formal full name – Zachery Charles Klinglesmith was born at 10:40 AM on September 28, 1991. Actually, I blame his Aunt Chrissie for the misspelling – she had written on a balloon “welcome Zachery” and delivered it to our hospital room right before I filled out his birth certificate. He fixed that by shorting it to Zach while entering High School.
Days and months and years went by. I wasn’t to good at the baby stuff. I was always worried I’d break him and wondered why he didn’t come with a warranty and instruction manual. His father was King of toddler-dom. Taking videos of Zach eating and setting it to the Mario Brother’s sound track, flying kites with him, going for bike rides with Zach in tow behind Jimmy in his little trailer. We divorced when Zach was eight. I know that it was a long bumpy ride for my son. I was always at work and the combined efforts of his grandparents kept a steady parental presence in his life.
Both of us were with cub scouts and boy scouts. In the cub scouts, I’d join him on his camping trips and was often the only female there which put Zach in the awkward position of having to be my buddy, which included escorting me to the restroom. We were gathered around the fire one night and I asked him to following me up to the latrine. One of the other scouts asked why Zach had to walk me to the bathroom to which another one replied “so she won’t be eaten by a bear.” The innocent comment had all the adult scouts laughing boisterously which further puzzled the dozen boys with us, except for Zach – wise beyond his years.
He’s always had a love of music. When we moved to Easton, I signed him up for guitar lessons and got him a guitar case that had back pack straps. Zach quickly grew into a town character as he’d put the guitar back pack on and walk over to his lessons. There’s nothing quite like a almost 6 foot tall preteen strolling down the street in his chucks with a guitar strapped to his back, the neck of the bag reaching a foot over his head. Friends and family would call me to say “I saw Zach today” and who could blame them because its not like you could miss that. For his last concert of his high school career, he played the baritone saxophone with the jazz band. It was an impressive sight and sound as he belted out the Star War’s canteen song on the massive booming brass instrument.
If growing up the child of divorce didn’t damage his psyche, I thought for sure entering into a blended family with the Nielsen clan would. This animated passionate bunch was so very different from the laid back upbringing he’d had. It was rough on him but he championed through it and still retained his calm in the chaos. To add insult to injury, there was no room at the inn, so to speak – so he lived under his bed for the first three years. It was a very Harry Potter style life and he probably wondered how he got stuck with this crazy muggle family. There was never any lack of love for him from the rest of the gang though, with his step father leading the charge with plenty of fusing and fretting over him sprinkled with “you putz”. Keith had asked Zach to go clean the car (failing to specify ‘windows’) and handed him a bottle of windex and a roll of paper towels. Zach took him at his word and started cleaning the whole car – diligently windexing and wiping down every inch. Keith saw what he was doing as he looked out the office window, all the while laughing, shaking his head and conjuring up the supreme “putz”. Of course, he was also having too much fun watching Zach to stop it for quite some time. Zach could hold his own with his dear ol’ step dad though. He proclaimed that Keith was in a particularly snarky mood one day and stumped all of us with this new word – which we had to look up – and agreed that yes, Keith was snarky indeed.
In these recent years, Zach’s old soul shines through while still risking having his silly mother enlist him in, well, general silliness. Every time we are in his dad’s neck of the woods in Fells Point, we have to visit the record store. I pull an album out and make him pose with it. He totally got into the spirit of things with this one of Lady Gaga -
He posed again recently for the one on the right. I’d gotten a few years of professional photography under my belt, and he perfected the art of posing for our album art series. He uses this as his Facebook profile photo and it calls to the odd sense of the world we both share. Take note, fellow Cow followers. The little bovine is in the shot.
So here we are, 21 years later. I’ve been handed the greatest miracle in a child who survived an upbringing that could only be described as unique. I was given the honor of being with him when he ordered his first drink – bourbon on the rocks – once again showing his old soul. I could almost picture him in a smoking jacket, reclining in a large leather arm chair in front of a roaring fire, cigar in one hand, drink in a crystal cut high ball glass – all the while, pondering quantum physics as it relates to Marvin Martian’s P38 Modulator and listening to Awolnation’s “Kill Your Heroes”
So here’s to the miracle of Zach. His mom and dad always have his best interest in their hearts but often lack in proper execution of showing it. Despite it all, he is smart enough to know how loved he is and he’s done a good job raising his parents. Zach has autonomy unlike any I have seen. That blend of old soul, quirky humor, surreal take on the world, and a nice dose of brain power – - like I’ve told him many times before – - when you take over the world, remember who your mother is.
Happy 21st Birthday, and true to your mother’s style, 4 days late.