For ever and ever and ever

The boy and I are driving back from a morning’s peregrinations — hardware store (my idea, natch), bakery (we both agreed, natch), library (his suggestion) — and we were listening to one of his favorite songs on the Free to Be You and Me album: “When We Grow Up.”

It’s sung by Diana Ross, and here are the lyrics:

When we grow up will I be pretty
Will you be big and strong
Will I wear dresses that show off my knees
Will you wear trousers twice as long

Well, I don’t care if I’m pretty at all
And I don’t care if you never get tall
I like what I look like and you’re nice small
We don’t have to change at all

Hey, when we grow up, will I be a lady
Will you be an engineer
If I have to wear things like perfume and gloves
I can still pull the whistle while you steer

{repeat refrain}

When I grow up, I’m gonna be happy
And do what I like to do
Like makin’ noise, and makin’ faces
And makin’ friends like you

And when we grow up, do you think we’ll see
That I’m still like you, and you’re still like me
I might be pretty, you might grow tall
But we don’t have to change at all

I don’t want to change, see, ’cause
I still want to be your friend
For ever and ever and ever

As we near home, my sweet boy starts to sing along with it — he of the coiled-spring body energy and the jabbing sword thrusts and the fierce, fast tears and the insistence, this morning, on bringing his sister’s fairy wings and wand with him — and a swirl of contradictory thoughts elbow one another in my head. What a beautiful vision of the future. What a load of malarkey. Everything’s changing these days; anything’s possible. Think about that tomboy girl you saw on the playground the other day: she was surely loved by her parents, who did her hair like that. My son will be pummeled — like that kid in the middle school a few scant blocks to the north of us; wait, no, like that kid at our daughter’s very own elementary school — the minute he wears his fairy skirt outside the house. “We don’t have to change at all”– how sweet. How impossible.

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