When he was born, I was 20 years old. It was thrilling. But I was clueless. I knew nothing about babies. I had never even babysat a child. Everything was new. The first time my pediatrician came to my house, I was embarrassed that I did not know how to change a diaper very well. I was such a baby myself. That was in the days when doctors still did that. And he encouraged me to nurse Charley, saying it was best, healthiest, and easiest. And he shocked me by saying that breast milk came in cute containers. As a mother, I was pretty innocent and easily shocked. But I learned. And Charley was patient with me, his mother. He was a good baby. No colic, not sick or fretful, but a happy baby and easy to take care of. We left him one day, for the first time without a family member, to go to the Gold cup races. We had hired an old black lady that someone told us about. She sat with him and gave him a bottle. But I could tell she was not really a good babysitter; she just sat and did not really interact with him. I determined not to have that happen again.
In a way, Charley had two mothers because my mother adored him and spent time with him when she could. She was a young grandmother of 43 when Charley was born. She still had lots of energy and loved being a “Gramma”. She said she felt young when she was with her grandchildren. And it was not long before Charley had a sister, Helen, 13 months after he was born. And 22 months after that, his sister Lilla was born.
I was still only 22 when my third child was born. So you can see, I really was a young mother and completely inexperienced. We were enthusiastic, though. So we tried to make it a wonderful childhood for our children. We were intent on providing every possible opportunity with lessons along the way. And many of the lessons were learned by us, the parents. We grew on the job.
He was our oldest and our “practice child” because we were so young and did not know anything. He was resilient, he continued to evolve, and he was insatiably curious, so he learned and learned and soon surpassed his parents in most ways.
He was an early maturer by the time he was 13 or 14, his voice was changing, and he was hairy all over.
He was an athlete, and he was enthusiastic about sports. But he was not dedicated to sports because he had so many other interests. However, he had some spectacular wins. The one I remember best was so unbelievable that I am glad there were witnesses; otherwise, no one would believe the tale. It happened at the Tri-School track meet between Hill School and Highland School and the Leesburg private elementary school. Charley, a 7th grader, was in a race. It was an important event at the track meet, and he got a bad start. I believe he tripped and fell. And so he was way behind the competition. We were all watching because he was good at track. And when he was so far behind, we feared he would lose. But we watched it anyway. He was more than half a track behind the leaders, an impossible distance behind them. But he just kept running. Gradually the distance got smaller, and then he stepped it up. It looked as if he just put himself into a higher gear and gained speed. But still, the distance was simply too great. Even as he passed one runner after another, it was clear he could not catch up. But then, as the leader seemed to be approaching the finish line and Charley was running at blistering speed, the leader slowed down. And Charley passed him and won the race. It was like a miracle. Those who witnessed it could not believe it. His teammates lifted Charley up onto their shoulders and carried him in a victory dance. His track coach said, “Do NOT EVER do that again. You scared me to death!” It scared everyone. In fact, the boy who was in lead to win the race said, “I could hear Charley advancing on me, and I just lost heart. I knew I could not go any faster.” So he just slowed down. And Charley overtook him with that all-out run! It was one of the most thrilling things I have ever experienced.
One time I was trying to chastise him for something he did that I considered wrong. I started out as a mother lecturing her young son, and a moment later, I found myself being lifted up into the air by this young man and tossed over his shoulder. It shocked us both. I don’t think he realized how easily he could pick me up. He was just beginning to learn about his own strength. And I had no idea he had become so strong. I knew he was taller than I was. But it was hard for me to get my head around the fact that my little boy was no longer my LITTLE boy but a big maturing teenager. It shocked me profoundly.
But it shocked him too. I will never forget that moment because it was so electrifying to us both.
My late sister-in-law Gail Matheson gave me a lesson in parenting sons. She had two sons a bit older than Charley. She was tiny. Her sons were tall. She told me, “When you call your son into the room, you must immediately say: ‘Sit down.’ And you must remain standing. That way, you have some leverage instead of looking up at them from below.” It was a good lesson.
Charley, through the years, has been my rock and my inspiration. I might not be typing this blog post if it were not for him. He inspired me to learn about computers and told me what I needed. He coached me. He encouraged me. Though sometimes he said.”Mom, read the manual.” But in those days, the “manual” was about 4 inches thick. There is no way I would read that when I could simply pick up the phone and ask my son! My hero.
During his teenage years, he and his friend Tom Symons had many adventures. But essentially, they were both nice kids and did not wish to make too much trouble for themselves. Tom was his driver during much of this time. Probably saved his life repeatedly. Thanks, Tom.
Charley dated lots of girls and finally settled on one whom he married. She gave him his gorgeous daughters, Kathryn and Eve. They lived in New York City and seemed to us to be completely city folk who might never leave the Big Apple.
But fate had other plans. When that marriage ended, Charley was constantly traveling to California. He was unsure if he would find a perfect woman and was at loose ends. When his sister-in-law Susie told him about her friend Andrea who was also divorced, they began a correspondence. Finally, they met in California. What a story that is! The result was a marriage that remains firm and happy to this day, and a son, Charles T. Matheson III. We call him Tom to avoid confusion with the other Charleys. Such a momentous event in Charley’s life! He was not expecting ever to have a son. Thanks to Andrea, who brought him three children of her own, he now has one with her. This brings their blended family to six. A wonderful house full of children when they are all home. This happens less these days because most of them are grown up and graduated from college.
Charley was a hero young! And he remains a hero to me. He is brilliant and creative and completely out of the “mainstream.”I admire his mind and his take on things. He is a marvelous writer, and I hope we will see a book published one of these days. When can we expect to see one, Charley? This is his birthday. Today, January 26th, is his 61st birthday. Sorry to out you, Dear Charley, but it is such an impressive age. I am proud to have lived to see you reaching into your sixties. May you have many more!!!
Copyright©. 2023 Bonnie B. Matheson