I published this photo on Facebook yesterday.
My caption was: This guy – Will O'Connor – known as William to his mother (me) will be 21 tomorrow, November 29. This was taken in the Morada Motel in Chatham, NB, when William and I were on our way to the wedding of my beloved niece and nephew, Lisa Marie Knowles and Mike Knowles.
When William was about this age, I wrote an article about him and, among other things, I said, "From the beginning, William was – and remains – a good sleeper, a good eater, a little fellow who seems to enjoy life." That why I love this picture. It expresses his love of life so openly.
He was an exuberant child. If I had a nickel – as they say – for every time a teacher called me from the school to tell me William had been sent to the office, I'd be rich. His crime was always the same: he was rough-housing. He and Sebastian were wrestling. He body-checked Rhett in the hall on the way to the gym. The teachers always made a point of acknowledging that William was not mean or malicious – he was high-spirited.
But rules were rules and the rule that seemed to be at the top of the rule-book was the no-touching rule. William broke that rule on a regular basis.
I confess, there came a day when I got tired of the phone calls though. I respect teachers beyond most other professional people and you couldn't pay me enough to do their job. But the day the teacher called and said, "William won't stay in his seat!" was the day I answered back. In retrospect, I'm sure she was having a bad day and had just had it up to here but at the time, I guess I'd had it too.
"What do you want me to do, Madame?" I asked. "Do you want me to come down there and tell William to stay in his seat?" I think she quite quickly realized that it must have sounded a little silly to me because she quickly answered, "No, but I thought you should know." I thanked her for that and then, because I felt bad for her, I said, "You know what? You can tell William that if he doesn't stay in his seat, I'm coming down there. I think that will help." I don't know if she did.
When he was in grade three or four – can't remember which – he had a little assignment which was to write 10 facts about his mother. He was in French Immersion so his facts were all in French.
He started with the obvious: he said I was a good cook and, quite endearingly, he said I took good care of him. He said I was a writer and editor. At about number four, he wrote, "Elle est une communiste." I swear, to this day, I wonder what the teacher must have thought when she read that. I didn't see it until the end of term so I think I saw her several times between when he wrote it and when I saw it. It was never an issue, as far as I know.
I'm not sure where that came from although it might have been that I defended Castro's Cuba against so much of the American propaganda that even school-kids seemed to hear. I didn't always insert myself into kids' conversations but if I heard something that I thought deserved discussion and another point of view, there I was.
William still takes a huge interest in politics, in how the world works and in all current events. He keeps a closer eye on much of it than I do and he loves to talk about issues, from local to international, from US presidential candidates to Putin and Turkey. He enjoys hearing a historical perspective and making connections. Dan has worked in politics most of his adult life and William loves hearing what happens on the inside of politics. He and Dan actively worked together on two recent election campaigns.
He also loves to talk about sports – basketball mostly – and music and movies and other aspects of pop culture. He has kept Dan and me interested in things that we might have missed.
He moves constantly while he's talking – walking up and down the room, sitting then standing, walking in another direction. It clearly helps with his thinking and I listen to him happily and I never phone anybody to say, "William won't stay in his seat."
Over the years, William has willingly gone with Dan and me to the theatre, to Symphony concerts, to movies that he probably wouldn't choose on his own. He always appreciates them and is always glad he went. One day, not too long ago, I told him I had got him a ticket for some show or other. I said, "I think you'll enjoy it." He said, "I enjoy pretty much everything, Mama."
It's not a bad way to go through life.