Henry walks into the kitchen carrying the cheap acoustic guitar with flames on it that his Uncle Dave bought him, same as if he was walking in with a cup of OJ or some fallen leaf he found out in the yard. But it ain’t the same to me, man.
I want to fist bump the cosmos.
I want to high-five the entire galaxy.
I want to scoop my 5-year-old up in my arms and squeeze him until he El Kabongs me to the floor.
See, I’ve played the guitar alongside my brother in my band, Marah, for nearly 20 years now, but I’ve never forced any instruments on my kids. I’m simply not that guy. If they get interested, I figure, then we’ll run with it. And besides, my oldest is still only 7; there’s plenty of time to figure things out.
It’s more than I can handle today. A flash of heat lightning zips through my bones. You play rock-n-roll in a band for half your life, you can’t just be all nonchalant when your own son starts strolling around the house with his own guitar. You can try to play it down if you really need to, but it won’t work, trust me.
Pride — the real kind, the parenting kind, that has been living down in your bones, biding its time, waiting patiently for this moment to possibly appear someday — it comes launching up out of your guts like some famished Great White, exploding onto the surface of your face no matter how chill you might normally be at any other time.
I try not to say anything.
I try to bite my lip, to watch my oldest son stroll by me like there’s nothing going on at all, but I’m too crazy with joy. No matter what happens next, I know I’m about to embarrass poor Henry a little. But whatever. It is what it is, this pride stuff. When you see yourself in your own child, there is no holding back. Nor should there be, you know?
The words come gushing out of my mouth before he’s three steps across the linoleum.
“Hey man,” I say. Henry stops and looks at me all calm and collected. “You gettin’ ready to rock out?”
As soon as I say those dumb words, I know damn well I’ve played it all wrong. And Henry does too. I’ve been a rock-n-roller for two decades, but no amount of street cred in this world can cancel out the dork in me. The minute I say “rock out” I cross over into Dork Land and we both know it.
“NOOOOO, DAD!” he explodes. “I’m not going to ‘ROCK OUT!'” (OMG, he’s mocking his old man!) “I’m going into the living room to find my guitar picks so I can practice playing Ramones songs in the backyard like you and Uncle Dave did before Ma-Wah!!!”
He says our band name like that. It’s pronounced muh-RAH, but Henry says it: “Muh-WAH!,” like Elmer Fudd would say it. My life is improved 5,000 percent every time I hear it, too.
The moment unfolds, and I get it. As a dad with a son exploring his own mind and interests, I know I’m cramping Henry’s style. But so be it. I can’t care about that, man! Not this afternoon! Ask any dad alive and they’ll tell you the same thing I’m about to tell you.
See, I can’t put his young embarrassment out in front of my insatiable need to beam right now. I’ve basically waited my entire life for this moment right here. Even when I had no idea that it could ever be a possibility, I was harboring the notion. Even when I was too young or wild or self-obsessed to care, deep down I was always dreaming of, and wishing for, a mini-me carrying a guitar with flames on it to holler at me about practicing Ramones songs!
It is the dream of dreams for a dad like me! And here I am living it! Like father, like son. I’m staring that in the face. Like father, like son. My heart is racing up my trachea.
So I’ll be damned if I’m going to leave my pride out on the runway, Henry. No way. I’m so in love with you right now, dude. My pride, it needs to soar around the room and fill it up like sunlight, or like pork chop smoke detector haze. My pride will NOT be contained, buddy. It CANNOT be!
My pride is busted out and running loose.
Completely unexpectedly, one of the best moments of my existence is unfolding right before my very own eyes.
So, duh. I mean, of course I’m freaking out. Of course I am.
Oh boy. Like father, like son.
And nothing will ever be the same again.