Turning Sixteen


Ben turned sixteen on October 20.

Sixteen by any count is a landmark year, the year in which one can drive, get  a part time job, and begin to look toward college. It is a rite of passage year, a hopeful, busy, happy year.

Sixteen years ago when this first grandchild was born, we clustered about his crib and spun our dreams. No wishes given by Fairy Godmothers could have topped ours! We fairly swamped this tiny, sleeping being with hopes, aspirations, and good wishes. If we had our way, no evil thing would dare come near while good and happy events fairly smothered the road ahead of him. And of course I did what every doting grandmother would do—I made him a gift.

This gift was a cloth alphabet book. I scoured the fabric stores for suitable images for A (alligator) and B (butterfly) and so on down the line. Then I sat down and wrote what the letters meant and how they would form words that might transform the world. Words, I said, carried in them the history of civilization itself and a hope for the future, too, because through them could come a magical adventure that would never end. I ended my little homily with a heartfelt, ‘Bon voyage!”

All voyages begin with baby steps. Then come games of hide and seek and follow the leader and songs and stories told and retold… memory-makers, all! But years pass, a child grows, and let’s pretend are usurped by the magic of computer games,  i-pads, and cell phones.

Sixteen years—in that  young lifetime the world has turned for good— and evil. The twin towers were struck down, wars and unspeakable violence and terrible wars have stolen young lives full of promise.  Tsunami, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods and political chaos continue to wreak havoc.

And yet the tired old world has seen wonders, too, kindness and integrity have risen to counteract much that is evil and sorrowful. Medical miracles abound, for look, here is a man whose face was destroyed but who has been given a successful facial transplant! Progress is being made even as I write so that a special exoskeleton can allow the paraplegic to walk again someday. Once fatal, many diseases are either curable or in check, and researchers work tirelessly to conquer others. Artists of every discipline imaginable continue to create beauty while writers tirelessly spin words into magic. So many people volunteer service and time to help those less fortunate, and disasters are followed by healing outpourings of love and help.

Technology flourishes, too. In Ben’s time, there surely will be travelers to our sister planets. And—who knows? Perhaps ships, riding the winds of space, will learn the secrets of distant stars. The diamond rings of Saturn? The moons of Alpha Centauri? Oh, it is a wondrous new world that our grandson inherits.

Of course he is not thinking about any of this. Why should he? His mind is busy with a wished-for car and  cash-flow from employment and—yes, school and college to come. His sixteenth year will be crowded with music and sports, books, studies and, of course, romance.  So his adventure continues, and we who have held those hands when he took his first steps can only watch and hope that he will be always safe and well.

Bon voyage, Ben, with love.

In this room you took

Your very first baby steps

And stood, unaided!



About Maureen C. Wartski

I’m Maureen Wartski, writer, artist, wife, mother, grandmother; you can see that I have many of the bases covered. I was born in Ashiya, Japan, a (then) small town which lay cradled between sea and mountains. In the evenings, we would walk along the road that ran past Osaka Bay, and a great moon would rise out of the water to turn the world to silver. I’m told that my first words were, “Big moon!” All my life I have felt the tug to write something, draw something, put together something with fabric, string and color, and the urge to create has grown through the years. I suppose, then, that it’s a natural thing that this blog be full of the things that so many of you enjoy doing…drawing, making something with fabric, and writing. Yuri's Brush with Magic, my newest book for middle schoolers follows the adventures of a brother and sister, the magic of words, and the incredible magic of the natural world. I'd love to hear from you! You can send me a note at: maureen@wartski.org/ My blog is here: https://maureenwartski.wordpress.com/ Or friend me on Facebook!

16 responses »

    • You are always so kind, Sue. Truly, on Ben’s birthday I kept looking at this young giant and wanting to hug him and pat him and kiss him as I did when he was little… of course I did a little of each, anyway!! 🙂

  1. Maureen, I have the privilege of commenting first, I believe. What a thoughtful, thought provoking blog! How world events transpired before my eyes and mind as I read. Having a new grandchild Ruth who is a tiny bundle of joy (not so tiny anymore) creates many images of her future with hopes and fears in almost equal measure. I am so heartened by the positive references to brave even heroic acts of individuals despite the horrors of war and personal violence we are reading about even today. Thanks for your optimistic vision of our human race.

  2. Maureen, your alphabet book made me wish I had thought of that years ago when my first grandchild, now 14, 6’2″ and driving (yes, you can drive in Alaska at 14) was born. What an amazing post. Your Ben and your other grandchildren are blessed to have you for a grandmother.

    Beautiful post!

  3. Maureen,
    I liked that you compared well-wishing family members surrounding a baby’s crib to fairy godmothers. I smiled when you said Ben has a wished-for car in mind instead of visiting sister planets, etc. Your post shows us a 16-year-old’s perspective as well as your own. Loved it!

  4. Maureen, I love the wisdom and the creativity you have passed on to your grandson. Of course he may not be so appreciative now, but give him some time in the great big, sometimes ugly world and he will cherish having a grandmother like you more and more. Thanks for sharing this great idea.

    • Linda, thank you so much for reading and commenting. I am sure that the little alphabet book has been passed on, by now… which is good! Ben himself is a great reader and writes easily and well… so Grammy is very happy!!

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