My youngest child is sixteen today.





He is still a child.

A simmering bundle of appetites. He will eat cake with abandon, roll hard in muddy Rugby fields, and drop his things across the house like change slipping from his pockets.  A hat, one sneaker, skate board hardware, candy wrappers, empty Arizona tea cans, and scribbled notes on photosynthesis all form a path from the front door to his boy lair. His clothes are piled like a small mountain range around the canyon of his bed, where he curls in innocent sleep.

He is a man.

He scoops the dog up in his arms, fifty pounds of wild. She calms as they merge, muscles wrapped around muscles. The dog acquiesces and licks his chiseled cheek, surrendering to his enormous heart.

On Sunday afternoons, his young amiga waits for him nervously on the corner. Her cheeks flush as she tosses her chestnut hair and steels her eyes to bring a seriousness to the encounter, then abandons it to grin and wave as we pull up. As he steps from the car to her arms, I know she does not see my child. She sees a kind and warm young man, his dark eyes inked upon her heart like a surgeon’s skilled tattoo.

He is a Mayan.

He comes from a land of turmoil, from a people of peace.  From the dream-like world of Guatemala. From a people who challenge the world’s oppression with only the blinding colors of an artist’s palette, woven into the fabric of their lives. The flaming red of too much spilled blood, the cobalt blue of the wide sky above Lake Atitlan, the yellow of the winter sun, the verdant green of the sweating jungles.

A people that call upon Gods that we dismiss too easily in an anthropological white-wash. Gods who fly with the wings of eagles, who spill the wombs of fertility to the dry earth. Gods who have forged their people — strong, fierce, wise people, in the fires of struggle.

He is a messenger.

At seven months, my small prince made his way from that far away world to ours, his tiny hands playing happily with our Westernized toys. He blew bubbles and smiles at the stewardess on the crowded plane and stretched his legs, already strong, to lift himself high.  He was sixteen pounds of joy, hurtling into our world like a comet, breaking us open to a different way of seeing, a new kind of love, a melding and reshaping of the family tableau.

There has been pain. There is always pain, when we stitch together disparate parts of the universe and try to call it the “same.”

But the edges have smoothed over time, each of us finding a new way to embrace the other, each of us finding a bottomless well of love for our boy, and our boy finding that no matter how deep he digs, no matter how far he goes, there will be more love. Always more love.

My youngest child is sixteen today.

He is launched into the world with the courage of a Mayan warrior, the heart of a loyal pup, the free spirit of a child, and the love of his tribe.

Watch him fly.




About Joanellserraauthor

My debut novel just released from Wido Publishing and on Amazon. Come see me at
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1 Response to Sixteen

  1. Julie Rembrandt says:

    Beautiful. Makes me so happy and sad at the same. Happy birthday to Joseph. Such a wonderful young man- or whatever he is.

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