Try as I might not to let it get to me, I've been experiencing the occasional pang of nostalgia this week. I suppose that's only to be expected when you find yourself facing the 20th anniversary of your first child's birth.

Joshua Orrin Small was born on June 1, 1991 - 28 years to the day after I was born, as it happens. I've spent the last 20 years telling people that shared birth date was the product of accident, rather than design; I've never been that good at math, after all. What makes it even more interesting is that we were also both born on a Saturday. When Josh was first born I used to tell people that was because we knew that was the day all the good cartoons were on TV, but by the time he was old enough for such things there were no good cartoons on TV anymore. Thank goodness for the home video market; it pains me to think my kids might have been so culturally deprived that they might have gone through life not knowing anything about Roger Ramjet, Super Chicken or The Herculoids.

I know people who are really into astrology and horoscopes who believe there is some great cosmic significance to the fact that Josh and I are both Geminis who were born on the same date. I have never been one to put much stock in such nonsense (whenever someone asks me what sign I was born under I typically respond "Joe's Bar and Grill"), but even I have to admit that there is an odd sort of symmetry that seems to bind us together.

His mother likes to call him a “Daddy duplicate,” and while Joshua usually makes a face whenever she says it I’m afraid there is some legitimacy to the charge. His taste in music, books and movies is pretty much the same as mine, for example. And I’m afraid the lad is every bit as opinionated as his old man, perhaps even moreso; I've heard him do 20 minutes on "If I had WANTED a salad I would have ORDERED a salad" when the girl at the hamburger stand asks if he wants lettuce on his burger. 

Such instances always make me grin and think to myself that some people don't know how lucky they are that he's not the one with the newspaper column...

But we differ in a lot of ways, too. By the time I was his age I'd been on my own and working full-time for a couple of years; Joshua's still living at home and working on a college degree by taking online classes through a school in another state. Joshua finished in the top 10 of his high school graduating class and was named "Most Likely to Succeed" by his classmates; the notion that I might ever have been able to lay claim to either of those achievements had been considered pure science fiction by just about everybody back at Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School, including myself. 

And Josh tends to have less patience than I do (which is really saying something, now that I think of it) when it comes to wanting to correct those things he thinks is wrong with the world. The whole concept of corporate greed angers him, for example; he hates it that companies always seem to charge more for the stuff that is supposed to be better for you, whether it be healthier foods at the supermarket or medicines for the things that ail you or solar panels to power your home. 

"Why does everything always have to be about money?" I've heard him ask time and time again. "Why don't these people just do the right thing simply because it's the right thing to do?" And he's right, of course. I just wish I had better answers for him. Perhaps that's the biggest difference between us; he hasn't yet reached that point in the maturation process where the idealism of one's youth has been blunted by the frustration that comes with age. I envy him that...

At times this young man with the hybrid car and a bookshelf full of volumes about ancient civilizations and the low tolerance for greed and stupidity seems like an entirely difference human being than the little boy who used to loved watching the Power Rangers and refused to go anywhere without his stuffed Pongo (one of the dogs from the Disney cartoon 101 Dalmations). But every now and then his mother and I still glimpse a flash of something that reassures us that little boy is still alive in the young man's heart.

Like that impish grin he gets whenever he manages to pull some kind of a joke on his mother or father or little brother William, or is able to hit one of us with a snowball when enough of the white stuff blankets the yard in the winter.

Or the playful competitiveness that comes to the surface when William talks him into the two of them playing some video game together.

Or the way he plays with the family dogs - which just goes to show that he inherited as much of his mom's best qualities as he did his dad's worst.

There are times I really miss the little boy that my son used to be. But I can't help feeling a certain sense of pride over the thoughtful and intelligent young man that he has become. I don't know how much - if anything - I might have had to do with that. I do know the world is a much better place because both of my sons are in it. The future is theirs for the making...

(Copyright 2011 by John Allen Small)