From one of my favorite short stories, Eleven by Sandra Cisneros
The many Seans within his 11 year old self.
Sean let me know, the day before his birthday, that his great heroic journey was about to begin.
"Harry was 11 when he went to Hogwarts," he explained, "and Link is 11 when he starts his journey. Eleven is also the Ewok age of coming, when they get their slingshot and put on their hood." Sean is an Ewok expert.
It is also the birthday that I've been thinking about ever since we finished the Harry Potter series. I had to search past Facebook posts to remember exactly when we finished:
[note to self: Facebook is a pain to search. Do not use it as your memory-keeper!]
When we finished the book, Sean asked me if I thought he might get a letter from Hogwarts on his 11th birthday. He confided that he knew we were all muggles but he thought he just might be wizard.
And so was born the idea of surprising him on his 11th birthday with a letter...
It includes an invitation to Hogwarts... at Universal Studios for this fall.
I wanted to capture Sean at age 11 in this post, but that's an impossible task. He is growing and changing and figuring out who he wants to be. He is a bit adamant about being a nerd, and his two best buddies, Leo and Luke, have joined him in what they call the "nerd herd" at lunch. My understanding is that their game involves a mish-mash of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.
I see no conflict with Sean's embrace of nerd culture and his love of sports, but he does and we have ongoing conversations about stereotypes and not needing to conform to any one box. He still loves soccer and running, and is playing baseball this spring (when the snow allows). He loves cheering for the Blackhawks along with his dad.
Some things remain constant, like Sean's love of reading, writing, drawing and acting. Here's a glimpse at some of his past roles:
(Superman, Buzz Lightyear, the Wise Man, "An Old-fashioned Thanksgiving," Huck Finn, and an elf in "The Hobbit")
Current Favorites at age 11:
- Color: Green
- Food: Hamburgers
- Dessert: Hawaiian Ice
- Book: Fellowship of the Ring
- Movie: Star Wars
- Song: "Concerning Hobbits"
- Game: Ocarina of Time
- Sport: Soccer
He still plays violin (above with his two best buds), and has been teaching himself the piano this year. He says he still plans to live in the Irish countryside and be a blacksmith, as well as write and draw comics.
Just before his birthday, his godfather, Uncle Kevin came to visit. In a magical, serendipitous moment Sean asked my brother, who has never been into videogames really, what his favorite game was as a kid, and he said, "Probably Ocarina of Time." I don't think Kevin knew that Sean is slightly obsessed with Legend of Zelda, was Link for Halloween (even though everyone thought he was Peter Pan) and has taught himself to play the theme of Ocarina of Time on the piano. He was on cloud nine having Uncle Kevin play with him and point out things he never knew. For me, it was a "cup overflows" moment of gratitude.
Kevin also gave him a few too many tips on chess, and taught me, a rudimentary player, how to castle correctly. For his birthday, Sean received a book on how to beat anyone at chess, with key points highlighted by Kevin and annotated with his own advice. The rest of us have been forbidden to read any of it, and I think it may be my favorite gift any of our boys have ever received.
The past year also brought Eve, Sean's long-longed for tortoise, and a side gig as a personal trainer, and his first non-party birthday party (we stop at age 10) which involved pizza and ice cream cake, his best buds, "Jungle Book" at the theater, and a ton of time on the trampoline, playing Wii, and ghost in the graveyard. For his first year without a party, it still felt a lot like a party.
Then again, most things with Sean do feel like a party. In January he told me his goal for 2016 was to be more positive, which I thought funny because he is a pretty positive kid. A long time ago I said something to him and Nolan about how we can choose to make "a heaven or a hell" out of anything, and he loves to remind me of that whenever I throw a fit. He still loves to snuggle, still loves to wrestle his dad, and is the bridge in our family between the childhood world of Nolan and the teen world of Aidan.
I'm excited to witness the heroic journey ahead!