Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Time Traveling with Oakley


Twenty minutes after midnight on January 15, 1989, Oakley C. Merideth took a look around the green-tiled labor room at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco, thought, "Hey, this place has possibilities!" and made his debut on Planet Earth. Without any help from the obstetrics staff mind you.

Oh, his father called out to the nurses' station--"Could we have a doctor in here???" But the stunned professionals were still wriggling into their throwaway gloves when Oakley wriggled his way into this world.

You see, Oakley and his mother--that would be me--knew something the equipment didn't know. The fetal monitor suggested Oakley was due in roughly two hours, but Oakley's inner clock, and mine--somehow, we'd managed to synchronize--said he would arrive in roughly two minutes. Oakley began this particular leg of his journey on his own schedule.

And he's been traveling that way since. When did he first turn his head, roll over, crawl, say cookie, walk to his father, hug his sister? When he was good and ready. I simply do not remember exact times, and I never recorded these developmental milestones in a baby book.

Other things I remember well. Like the evening we were eating at La Victoria on Alabama Street in the Mission District of San Francisco. Someone walked over to the juke box and started playing Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean." You remember it (if you're old enough). The one that starts with all the heavy dance beats. Oakley began dancing from the waist up in his high chair. His head and shoulders moved first one way, then the next. First towards the salsa. Now towards the chips. Then they'd go stiff for a moment. Then they'd swoop again. To the right. To the left. In perfect rhythm. You'd have thought he'd been born in a disco under strobe lights. The waitress's eyes grew huge. They met mine. It was spooky, but in a good way.



Oakley has always been a little spooky, but in a good way. In the way that
a good question is a little spooky. In the second grade he refused to practice his spelling words until someone offered a proper explanation of: Who made up words in the first place? I'm still scratching my head over that one.

At elementary school graduation, when each student went up to receive a diploma, a teacher would stand and say a few words about that particular kid, to try to capture that kid in a nutshell. What was said about Oakley: Takes abstract thought to the next level.



One crisp autumn morning when Oakley was in eighth grade, an officer with the New Mexico State Police called me to inform me that my son had defaced a large expanse of the El Dorado Elementary School with graffiti. "It was a gang, ma'am, and your son was the ringleader." I was stunned. I was shaking. I called Bennie. He and I flew to the school. There we witnessed the desecration firsthand. We learned that Oakley and a group of girls, who apparently found him kind of cute, had indeed scrawled anarchy symbols on the wall. And drawings of turtles and hearts and snippets of poetry. Each morning they caught a bus at El Dorado School, a bus which then took them to the middle school ten miles away. This particular morning the bus never came. They were bored, and they'd discovered AN AUTUMN LEAF makes a handy drawing instrument.

To this day when the New Mexico State Police call and ask me to buy tickets to their fundraiser dance whose purpose is "to keep our kids from a life of crime," I politely refuse.

In middle school Oakley had another run-in with the long arm of authority. He is purportedly the only student in the history of Capshaw Middle School to have spent a day in In School Suspension reading Jung's Man and His Symbols.

Yes, even in middle school Oakley was a visionary. And his companions were visionaries.


When Oakley was a sophomore, I received another phone call. It was from the creative writing teacher at Santa Fe High. "Just wanted you to know that your son won first prize in the New Mexico CultureNet poetry WebSlam. He takes this kind of thing so casually, I practically had to hold a gun to his head to get him to enter it, so he may not tell you."

Yes, at the age of 14, Oakley had, with hardly any effort at all, nailed first prize in a competition of kids from all over the state. Since then he has published his poetry and won scholarships to two writing conferences. He has read his poetry at The College of Santa Fe, alongside two established adult poets. He has been the warmup act to a band called The Sex Boys (don't ask) as well as one of the warmups to the torching of Old Man Gloom at Santa Fe Fiesta.



The poem that clinched his first poetry victory began "Hey little children, little freaks, little souls..." One of the judges wrote that when she read that line, she was captured.

That's the way I've felt since January 15, 1989.

I'm captured.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SON!

79 comments:

lime said...

what a marvelous tribute to such a creative young man. happy birthday oakley!

San said...

Thanks, Lime!

HMBT said...

Happy Birthday you captivating soul!

San said...

And Happy Art Sales to you, Heather!

Merelyme said...

wow...that was great! i am still new to your blog so i had no idea how old your son was or...anything. i feel like i got to know him from your writing. he sounds like quite a remarkable young man.

San said...

Merelyme, thanks for visiting again.

I have two great kids (his older sister's not too bad either) and I consider myself blessed.

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

May I add my happy birthday wishes and blessings to Oakley?

That’s a wonderful birth story Oakley has!

And the memories are the kind that are the best.

San said...

Nick, we're honored for you to add those wishes. The more the merrier, and it's not everyday that such wishes come from a Sometimes Saint.

Yes, they are good memories. Except for the call from the sheriff's department.

Patty said...

I'd like to add my Happy Birthday wishes for Oakley. What a wonderful recollection of his younger years. Truly...a loving tribute to an adorable son.

Celebration of Life said...

Like Mother, like Son; very talented and inspirational! (I don't think his Dad is so bad either!) What a wonderful family you have San. I am hoping to meet up with you in Sante Fe someday!

Kim said...

Oh Yes! Happy Birthday, Oakley!

San, I also have a second born son (also born in 1989) who follows a sister! I feel as though you have described some huge parts of my own son.

What a beautiful tribute from a beautiful mom!

Lee said...

Wow! Beautiful, exquisite, story about love, of a young mom, a young child, and the spirit of both. San you are as talented at word painting as you are with oils and acrylics on canvas.

Happy Birthday oh Free Spirit who is loved by San.

Joy!

Ms. Creek said...

and he has a wonderful mother that appreciates and write just as well!

i'd like to read that whole poem!

lots of good things to say...but even if he wasn't so extreme, i can imagine you would love him just as much!

ConservaChick said...

As a mother of boys myself, I loved watching the pictures of him through the years! Mine are still little. I'm sure they will be all grown up in no time. ~K

Daphne said...

Happy birthday to Oakley. I was just about to write a birthday post for my son. You and O have set the bar high!

His baby photos show that he has your eyes...

kate said...

Happy Birthday to Oakley!

Oakley sounds as if he is an interesting, bright guy and a treasure. No wonder you are proud of him!

murat11 said...

He's a beauty, and in good January 15th company: MLK, Joan of Arc, Moliere, Gene Krupa, Ernest Gaines, Captain Beefheart, Mario Van Peebles, Iris DeMent, Emeril Lagasse, and, lest we forget, Charo!

In The Secret Language of Birthdays, January 15th is The Day of Heroic Inevitability. Visionary? I'd say the man's had it coursing through his veins.

Blessings to all of you.

jsd said...

Happy Birthday to your son. One of the many gifts of children is experiencing the world through their eyes, and watching them grow into incredible individuals. Thank you for sharing the growth and lense of Oakley.

Lis Garrett said...

Oh, this is beautiful! I have tears in my eyes, yet I'm laughing, too! What a terrific young man you have. :-) Happy, happy birthday!! (he looks so much like his dad!)

Lis Garrett

CHEWY said...

The Velvet Underground & Nico.

Carol said...

A beautiful tribute to your son. He is obviously very talented and very loved. (And I think I know where he got his great writing skills.)

I am happy to know that there are young people like your son in this world. It gives me hope.

San said...

Patty, we appreciate the birthday wishes--thank you!

San said...

Jo, for some reason, when Bennie read these comments last night, it was yours he repeated.

Yes, I'm sure you'll get to Santa Fe one of these days--that would be fun for all of us.

San said...

Kim, that's a happy coincidence! I'm glad you told me about it.

And I hope to get around to that post about color soon.

San said...

Lee, thank you for your uplifting comment. You are always so positive and supportive.

Joy back to you!

San said...

Yes, Ms. Creek, you are so right--I would love him no matter what. You know all about family love.

Thank you for complimenting my writing. That means a lot to me.

San said...

C. Chick, thanks for the visit!

Yes, the children do grow up quickly, but it's fulfilling to begin to see their young adult lives unfold.

San said...

Daphne, how cool that your son's birthday is near Oakley's. I look forward to reading that post, my friend.

Enjoy the birthday!

San said...

Kate, thank you for the birthday wishes.

I know you have your own wonderful son which you treasure.

San said...

Paschal, thank you for an informative comment--especially the uncanny Charo coincidence. Talk about birds of a feather. Oakley already googled "Ernest Gaines," since he didn't recognize the name right away. Not a bad one to share a birthday with at all.

The Secret Language of Birthdays--that sounds like a read that would be up my alley.

Peace to you and Tina and Walden.

San said...

JS, I always enjoy reading about your own kids and the way they look at the world.

Thanks for the kind words.

San said...

Lis, as parents we do have to keep laughing, don't we?

I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. Visit any time!

San said...

Dar, I'd wondered who would notice "The Velvet Underground." I should have known who!

San said...

Carol, you are making me glow!

Here's to HOPE...

murat11 said...

The Secret Language of Birthdays is a big ole coffee table book, good for some fun, a toe-dipping astrological exercise. Days are often named/themed according to major "playas" on that particular birthdate: no surprise that 1/15 would be what it is with MLK, Joan of Arc, Charo, and of course Oakley. One major street cred problem, at least in this household. October 15th (Tina's birthday) is themed "The Day of the World's Stage," no doubt in part due to its being Oscar Wilde's birthday. One problem: Wilde's birthday is October 16th, not the 15th. Kind of a big gaffe for such a big enterprise, but still fun and sometimes revealing nonetheless. No need to own it, though I now do: for years, I would simply park myself in front of it at various bookstores and peruse. Part of the bookstore ritual.

Anyhoo, Happy OakleyFest.

Celebration of Life said...

Hi San,
I'm not sure when I will get down your way but if I am ever close, I will let you know! Life's Journey is so unpredictable, one never knows where it will lead!
Jo

San said...

P. Murat, as it turns out, through a retailer's (innocent) typo, I was charged $60 inadvertently. In the Christmas bill-paying rush, I paid my credit card balance in full, then on later reflection, discovered the $60 error. Now I have an amazon credit card with a $60 credit (a kind of windfall I'd paid for in advance) plus a $25 bonus certificate for shopping frequently on amazon. So I'm looking to spend 85 guilt-free dollars.

Thanks for the heads-up on the coffee table book. That's one I'll probably peruse in the library . My coffee table is an old chest that is far too crowded already.

San said...

Jo, you never know. I could show up on your doorstep in Wyoming any day now.

Celebration of Life said...

You are always welcome, San! I don't think you will want to visit right now! The temperature is -21 degrees and the wind is howling at 20-35mph. I have my thick heavy sockies on that Ms. Creek gave me for Christmas. The coffee is go though so come on over for a chat!

San said...

OK, Jo, why don't we just visit from a distance? I've made my own coffee. Cheers!

Here it's been 3 degrees--a virtual heat wave compared to what you have.

david mcmahon said...

`Takes abstract thought to the next level' is another phrase for genius. Trust me.

And happy birthday, Oakley. The world needs more people like you.

wbtt said...

I'll say it again too: Happy Birthday Oakley! And I wish you many more as you explore this world. I have absolutely loved having you as my son--getting to know you everyday. Even when we've had tension around some usually inconsequential issue, I have appreciated our learning curve. You're growing up to be a fine man--what else could a Dad ask for?

Thanks for writing such a fine post Tiny.

San said...

And David, the world needs more encouragers and well-wishers like you. Not that you were hiding behind the door when they handed out the genius helpings.

San said...

WBTT, it's always an adventure traveling up and down, around and around the learning curve with you. Roller coaster is too tame a comparison. Seems we enter another dimension now and again. Good times are ours.

I LOVE YOU!!!

Celebration of Life said...

Okay, San. If you won't come over and have coffee with me, how about you and Bennie coming over for a bowl of homemade potato soup with fresh baked bread?

San said...

Wow, Jo, you drive a hard bargain.

We're following the double whammied aroma of soup and bread right to your kitchen table. ..with any luck we'll be there by midnight. Bennie drives fast.

Celebration of Life said...

LOL, I will keep the light on and the pot of soup on the back burner! We will have hot cinnamon rolls for breakfast with our coffee!

Dilly said...

Aw, luvley post!

Dilly Gwanny's berfday waz sayme day!

Happy BErfday Oakley!

(Wy calld Oakley?)

¬"

indicaspecies said...

"Hey, this place has possibilities!"

Belated birthday wishes to Oakley and all the very best to him. May he continue to have endless possibilities and opportunities in this world. :)

indicaspecies said...

Congratulations on making it to Post of the Day. I read about it about it at David's just now. So well deserved San. :)

San said...

Yum, Jo. These are the best cinnamon rolls I ever put in my mouth.

San said...

Happy Birthday to Dilly's Gwanny! Give her a hug for me please.

Oakley is named for Oakley Hall, an American writer whose novels are set in the Wild West.

San said...

Celine, thank you for the big wishes for Oakley and for being the bearer of happy news.

You are quite the encourager, my friend. Hug.

david mcmahon said...

I, yi, yi (oh the pain)

Oh the pain of being a trained journalist and observer of people and words and things and places - and to spell your surname wrong every time I mention you on my blog.

(Hangs head in utter shame)

My humble apologies, San.

David McMason, er McMatter, er McMahon

(Whew, finally got something right)

Jo Beaufoix said...

Wow. What an amazing tribute to your gorgeous son. You must be so proud.

San said...

David, here's hoping you don't lose more than a night or two of sleep over this crucial matter. At least you didn't call me SAM. I get that a lot too.

:-)

Thanks for the shout-out, friend.

San said...

Jo Beaufoix, that's quite a gorgeous profile pic.

Thanks for visiting! Please come again.

Jeff B said...

What a beautiful story you sharred with us. Oakley sounds like a great son and you have obviously done a terrific job raising him.

Thanks as well for visiting today. Nice to meet you.

San said...

Very nice to meet you, Jeff.

Thank you for your kind words. I hope you'll return.

lynn said...

Happy Birthday! I did this for my sons too. They loved it. Not. Lol!

San said...

Lynn, I'm LOL with you.

Thanks for visiting!

QUASAR9 said...

Time Travelling
Other dimensions
Outer Space
Inner Space

oooh, the wonder of it all

San said...

Quasar, you know all about the wonder.

Thanks for visiting, friend.

Sparkling Red said...

What an amazing young man you have there! Happy Birthday indeed. It's good to make his acquaintance, even indirectly. :-)

San said...

Hey, Red. Yup, he's a keeper.

He's enjoying meeting everyone through their amazing comments too. Thanks!

whimsicalnbrainpan said...

What a wonderful young man you raised!

San said...

Whimsical, good to see you!

Thanks for visiting.

Camplin said...

Great Bio pick. When is the movie coming out? Happy birthday to Oakley and a happy new year to your family.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Allow me to add my name and well-wishes to this impressive, bloated pile of a comment thread! :)

Best birthday wishes to Oakley.

And to the rightfully doting mum, that teacher said he practically had to put a gun to his head to get him to enter that contest. I hope you have a gun ready in a place you can find it if he needs similar encouragement in the future. ;-)

JafaBrit's Art said...

Beautiful post :) and for a special soul gracing our planet. Happy Birthday.

david mcmahon said...

I must never spell this wrong again

Merideth
Merideth
Merideth
Merideth
Merideth
Merideth

Losing sleep? Me?

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ......

San said...

Todd, watch for the made-for-tv special "I Was a Teenage Jungian." Do you think Hallmark would sponsor it?

San said...

Hey Moody,

Maybe I need to join the National Rifle Association.

:-) Thanks for the wishes, man.

San said...

Jafabrit, beautiful comment, babe.

Thanks!

San said...

You done good, David. Extra credit for you.

Now please stop snoring.

Photo Buffet said...

Glad to have run into your blog. Your son sounds like a joy. I bet his kindergarten teacher wonders what became of him.

San said...

Hi Photo Buffet. Thank you for visiting. Please return!

That particiular teacher is no longer at the school, and we've lost touch with her. Too bad.

Sandi McBride said...

The very description of an old soul...my son Wallace was rather like that...too smart (reading at 3)too imaginative (wrote his first book at 6) and too ambitious (Newspaper Editor at 33)...I hope your Oakley is still all that he was and more...they come along so rarely! Happy Happy birthday Oakley...belated...
Sandi

San said...

Hello Sandi, thank you for your beautiful comment.

That's so special--feeling that connection between my Oakley and your Wallace, who sounds like a wonder.

Old soul. Funny. A friend of mine who hardly knows Oakley, having only seen him walk by at a gallery opening, saw a picture of him as a child that I carry around in my wallet. When she saw that picture, she said, "He looks like an old soul."