When we decided to create a simpler, more peaceful life, one of our goals was to make a list of priorities and learn how to maintain them. At the top of the list was “People over Things.” And our most important people are family, so that is why this year (as you may have noticed), on birthdays of our wonderful family members, I am posting a little entry celebrating what they mean to us.
On March 28, 1983, I gave birth to a blond-haired, blue-eyed baby boy. As mentioned back a couple of months ago, had he been a girl, his name would have been Sarah Elizabeth, but he was indeed a boy, and we named him Matthew Ensley, Matthew meaning “gift from God,” and Ensley after my late father. Matt was born into life with a big sister about 5 years older, but he took it in stride. In fact, he took everything in stride. Nothing ever seemed to bother him. He was creative, generous, imaginative, intelligent, loving, and spiritual.
He was also....well, different. Unless you think dressing up in a 3-piece suit with a valise in your hand is the right way to go to kindergarten, then yes, you might agree he was a little strange - in a good way, of course.
Here are two entries from a series of letters I wrote to him when he was growing up:
You are 3 years old now. It’s spring and you love to play out in the dirt with a spoon under the sprinkler. In fact, Sunday we looked around and found you naked in the front yard. We asked why you took your shorts off, and you said,”Because I want to sprinkle my whole body!”
I have decided to work with you on your alphabet recognition. We studied a workbook the other day which showed various letters and pictures of things that start with each letter. We were studying the letter V. It showed a picture of a violin. I asked you if you recognized it, and you said, “Guitar.” I reminded you that you had seen a boy at church play a violin and I pantomimed someone playing a violin. You repeated the word “violin” and seemed to have understood our little lesson. The next day you were humming away at the same time you were pantomiming the violin just as I had showed you. I was so pleased you seemed interested, but I want to see if you remembered the word violin. So I said, “Matt, that’s great! Now what are you playing?” You smiled broadly and replied, “Joy To the World!”
When Matthew turned 5, he did an extraordinary act. To this day, it amazes us when we think about it. He had fallen when he was 4 and chipped a front tooth, and at that time, the dentist wanted to watch it for signs of infection. For a long time, nothing happened, but then it got darker than the rest of Matt’s teeth, and the dentist indicated that the gum around it was tender. Finally, the dentist said that either the tooth should be pulled or a pulpectomy be done (similar to a root canal). He said the reason baby teeth fall out is that as the child gets older, the roots of those teeth decrease until finally, when the roots disappear, the teeth have nothing to keep them adhered, so they detach. Actually physically pulling one of these baby teeth before the root has dissolved is an arduous, painful process, because the root is still long. We had just decided to have the tooth in question pulled when one night Matt fell at church and busted his lip, also hitting that tooth. The gum line around the tooth started to bleed, and we were getting worried. We took him to the dentist, and the tooth was pulled. It took 2 shots of Novocain to numb the area sufficiently. Matt never cried, not even once!
As amazing as that was, what followed was totally unexpected. The night before the painful procedure, I heard Matt talking to his big sister about wanting to share his Tooth Fairy money with her, no matter how much it was. Of course, after hearing this, Ed and I needed to up the ante, and after all the pain Matt was going to be enduring, we figured he deserved at least $3, so the Tooth Fairy ended up giving him $6. Sure enough, the next morning, Matt gave Rachel $3.
The whole thing just floored us. To think that a 5-year-old little boy would give half the Tooth Fairy money to his sister was hard to believe anyway. But to know that he had gone through so much pain, so bravely, at the dentist’s office and still felt like sharing the reward was incredible. To this day, we repeat this story with awe and wonder.
Because that’s really the story of Matthew. He has an innate sense of compassion, affection, forgiveness, and grace. When you combine that with a hilarious sense of humor, first-rate intelligence and creativity, an eye for detail and a yearn for perfection in his work, then and only then can you see the complexities of our Matthew. He has entertained me when I had had a bad day, encouraged me when I was down, advised me when I didn’t know what to do, taught me patiently about computers, asked for advice when he thought I could give him some input, and grimaces but gives in when we tell embarrassing stories about his childhood. (See, Matt, in honor of your birthday, I’m not even posting the “I just pass gas” story!)
We are so blessed to have Matt in our lives. We have always been so proud of him, and I am honored that he got so much of his computer training by crashing our various computers in days gone by, as this means we have contributed greatly to his technological career.
Happy 25th birthday to our son! We love you!