As usual, he appears painfully thin to my maternal eyes. He is fashionably dressed in a black leather fitted jacket, casual pants and the Adidas sneakers he wears in compliance with his endorsement agreement. The expensive watch on his left wrist serves the same purpose. He’s agreed to wear it on the show.
The ubiquitous ball cap, some version of which he has worn since he was a Pee Wee Leaguer, was jammed down over his forehead to either protect his face from the sun or to prevent his being recognized by ardent, usually female fans. I never asked.
His kohl black beard shines and sparkles in the Atlanta sunlight, matching the ever-present twinkle in his almond-shaped eyes. Once again I marvel at the very notion that such a tall and handsome creature is the fruit of my long gone womb.
The relationship between a parent and an adult child is both easy and tricky. Ours has been a close bond from day one, fostered by my openness and determination to actually hear him. Nothing has changed about that, so when he chats over lunch about his work, his challenges and his sexual escapades, I force myself to listen as an adult friend. The “mommy” in me doesn’t like to think about those things very much.
He has just left the hotel gym and intends to return in the evening for another session. A bedroom scene with the star of the television pilot he is in town to film informs the two-a-days and is reflected in the content of his luncheon order. Broiled salmon, no butter. House salad, dressing and bleu cheese on the side. Steamed broccoli, no salt. He says his abdominal “six-pack” has slipped back to a 4 1/2; it will be back to six by morning.
The man who sits on the other side of the table is the self-assured, intelligent, polite and mannered gentleman I tried with all I had to raise. He sees the world in ways that are often diametrically opposed to the way I see it. He says things I don’t always like or agree with and he knows it, but it doesn’t stop him from saying exactly what he means. I like that about him, too.
The time is too short – the limo is picking him up to take him to the studio. The bedroom scene is to be shot the next day and he needs to be “camera-ready,” as he calls it. So focused. So professional.
I drop him off in front of the hotel and watch him disappear into his life again. Caught in the thick of the 5 p.m. rush hour in the impossibly congested Buckhead area of Atlanta, I think about the beautiful little toddler with the long eyelashes that caused people to mistake him for a girl if he wore a hat. He was such a little ham, even then.
I always knew he’d be a celebrity one day.