Throwing Muses
Kristin Hersh
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"Happy Birthday, Ryder" by Kristin Hersh, July 17 2006
(Originally published on

My son, Ryder, turned 15 yesterday. Baby Bo gave him a song for his birthday, his brother, Wyatt, gave him advice (“Stay away from gophers”) and Billy and I drew various pictures of presents we’d planned on getting him. I don’t know when our family began to subscribe to the hippie-ish Make It Or Find It ethic, but Ry seems cool with his invisible gifts. Billy’s chocolate inside-out cake was real, anyway. Real caffeinated, too — we were all up past midnight watching Father Ted in the kids’ room, laughing hysterically. Only Bo could sleep.

I doubt it was the caffeine, though, that kept us up. I think it was the just plain weirdness of a baby you know turning into a man you know and not wanting the day to end before we figured out how to feel about it. It’s been said before, by other wimpy-ass parents, that children grow up and it’s confusing, but people usually claim it happens quickly. If you asked me how many years Ryder’d been alive and I wasn’t allowed to say “forever”, I would’ve guessed about 50. But I also would have to admit that I think he’s a 50 year old toddler.

I met a toddler named Ryder in the airport last night, of all things. Then I came home to a six foot man named Ryder that I call my son. Crazy how the past keeps walking out the door and not even saying goodbye. It colors our present images to an extent that allows us to believe it’s real, but it isn’t. It’s gone. Pioneertown is burning. Today is the anniversary of my stepfather, Wayne’s, death. How can Baby Ry, Pioneertown and Wayne be nowhere?

But 50FootWave had another stupefyingly fun show this weekend in beautiful Seattle; Bernie and Rob are still my heart’s brothers (they left a hole in our household when they drove back to LA); Ryder may be “Man Ry”, but he still has his father’s unholy green eyes; my mother lost the love of her life, but she’s happy to see the rosehips appear by the ocean every spring; Billy’s still in the kitchen making chocolate inside-out cake whenever a boy has a birthday.

And I still have a baby in my arms. A different baby, one with blue eyes and an affinity for motorcycles and sugar. And while I dread missing this person I know better than anyone else, I can’t wait to see him throw away the past and jump into the now, whether he’s 15 or 50. They’re just so good at it, those babies– they’re always shoving that goofy old past out the door and not looking back.

Some things never change.