On Turning Ten (Billy Collins)

Matthew, you made me a mother. You set my feet on this wonderful path 10 years ago. I am in awe at what a fine young man you are becoming. You are loyal, kind, loving to your sisters and little brother, passionate about your world and your friends. You have been gifted with a brilliant mind, and you know "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." Luke 12:48

Today, we won't do school. We will eat out where you desire. We will give gifts in your honor and sing to you. And we will read this poem, On Turning Ten by Billy Collins and after all these year of reading it, it is finally yours! Double digits!

On Turning Ten
by Billy Collins
The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light--
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.


  1. Anonymous11:28 AM

    Matthew - I could not be prouder of you today. As mom said, you made me a father. Your family loves you, and I love you and admire you.

    Congratulations on making double digits!


  2. Happy Birthday to your Matthew!!! Today is my brother's birthday, too. He's 27, though! Your boy has a long way to go for that. :)

    Ten was my favorite birthday. It's when I got my American girl doll Molly, which I still treasure. :)

    That poem makes me feel so sad, like the speaker was giving up on being a child. Double digits is exciting, but you're still a kid at 10. You're an adult much longer than you're a kid, so I hope Matthew still embraces his childhood while he has it!

  3. Happy Birthday Matthew! You are an awesome young man! Enjoy your birthday quality time with your family today.

    Shona, this is such a special milestone for you all...savor it! We celebrate Gabe's 12th on Saturday.

  4. Happy Birthday Matthew, what a beautiful post. Love the poem too.

  5. Happy birthday, Matthew. Hope you have a wonderful day.

  6. Anonymous1:34 PM

    thank you sharing this powerful & moving poem, shona. and a very happy 10th birthday to your matthew.
    my lovely sofia turned 10 yesterday. she's still my baby.
    hoping you all have a great day!!!

  7. He is adorable! And I love that poem, I'm going to give it to my nephew when he turns ten.

    Thank you for sharing this post :-)

  8. Happy birthday to Matthew! Hope he has a wonderful day!

  9. How beautiful! A very Happy Birthday to Matthew.

  10. Happy Birthday to that special young man!

  11. Thank you all. I love my kids birthdays!!! Makes you think about life and being a mom.

  12. Happy Birthday, Matthew!
    Shona, I can't believe you have a ten-year-old! (Why is it that my Liam's 8 years seem so far from that still? It will creep up before we know it, no doubt!).
    Enjoy the birthday celebrations! Vx

  13. A post from a brilliant mother to her son marking his birthday and giving the readers a means for reflection, a dose of goodness and a huge chunk of beauty. Thank you Shona! Happy Birthday, happy everything to all of you!!!

  14. sending birthday wishes come true!

  15. Anonymous11:00 AM

    Happy Happy Day Matthew and may wonder and delight fill you eyes!
    Blessing Hannah Ray and Eden

  16. Shona...How wonderful! I love this poem and Happy, Happy Birthday to Matthew!

    I bet he is very excited about the birthday. :o)I miss you guys! We will be at church Sunday, so hopefully we can visit then.

    Tell Matthew we are all very impressed now that he is TEN.



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