from the vault: the autumn moon lights my way

I reached into the vault and pulled this entry out today because a reader recently commented that it was one of her favorites, and what do you know, it's one of mine, too.

When I wrote this, Ryan and Nolan were barely 16 and 14, in the middle of what Anne and I called "The Pod Person Phenomenon" where our sweet, wonderful little children were taken in the night and replaced by Pod People who suddenly thought we were so lame and wanted to argue about everything, regardless of how insignificant it actually was.

The Pod People eventually departed as rapidly and unexpectedly as they arrived, but the moment I captured in this blog was a joyful island in the middle of a stormy sea of exasperated sighs and rolling eyes:

the autumn moon lights my way

I heard Led Zeppelin coming out of Ryan's room, so I put down my Sudoku book (yeah, I've been hooked for about a month), walked down the hall, and knocked on his door.

"Come in," he said.

I opened, and entered his sanctuary: astronomy posters hung from his walls, and a stack of books (Les Miserables, The Count of Monte Cristo, Macbeth, Divine Comedy and a host of other books that your average AP English student with a 4.0 in the class reads*) sat on his desk. A pile of (clean? dirty?) clothes lay in a heap at the foot of his bed. He sat at his desk, looking at The Internets.

He turned around in his chair. "What's up?" He said.

"Oh, I just heard you listening to Zeppelin II, and I didn't want to miss a chance to share in something we both love, that I happened to introduce to you in the pre-Pod days," I thought.

"I . . . just wondered what you were doing." I said.

He got very excited. "Oh! I found this awesome Family Guy Website, and I was downloading audio clips from it, and putting them on my computer." He clicked a few times, and showed me the website.

"When I was your age, I did the same thing, with The Prisoner and Star Trek," I said, "on my Mac II."

He frowned. "Weren't you on Star Trek?"

"Yeah," I said, "but the sounds were from the original series."

He looked back at me.

"So it was geeky, but it wasn't totally lame," I said. Why did I feel like I our ages and roles were reversed?

"What's The Prisoner?" He said.

"A show that I love, that I don't think you're geeky enough to enjoy."

He clicked his mouse, and iTunes fell silent.

"Wil," he said, "you didn't think I'd like Firefly."

"Touche," I said with a smile. "Any time you want to watch The Prisoner, I am so there."

Actually, any time you want to do anything, I am so there, because I don't want to be a stranger to you for the next five years, and I'll close the gap any way I can.

"Okay," he said. "Maybe after school some day next week."

"When –"

"When my homework's done," he said. "I know, Wil."

He wasn't snotty. He wasn't rude. He wasn't impatient or unpleasant. He just . . . was. I saw a lot of myself in him.

"I need to work my a–" he began, "I need to work very hard this semester."

I nodded my head. "I'm glad you know that, Ryan."

He turned back around to his computer. I stood in his doorway and looked at him for a minute.

He may not have my DNA, but I've given him some of the things that matter in life.


He didn't turn around. "Hmm?"

"I love you."

"I love you too, Wil."

"Ramble On, And now's the time, the time is now, to sing my song.
I'm goin' 'round the world, I got to find my girl, on my way.
I've been this way ten years to the day, Ramble On,
Gotta find the queen of all my dreams."

*Yeah, I'm proud of him. Sue me.

We ended up watching a whole lot of The Prisoner together before he went off to college, and we watched a lot of Twin Peaks, The Twilight Zone, and The Outer Limits, too. I meet grown-up kids and their parents all the time these days who tell me that watching Star Trek together was important to them, and after watching these shows with my own kids, I totally understand what they're talking about.

Ryan is in his sophomore year right now. Every day, it seems, he sends me a text message or an e-mail, or calls me and his mom to tell us what's going on at school, or just to tell us he loves us. While I do miss him, I can't be too sad, because my whole goal as his parent was to raise a smart, capable, independent, successful and responsible person.

Every day, it seems, he affirms for me in some way that we were successful.

45 thoughts on “from the vault: the autumn moon lights my way”

  1. What a great story, I swear it was just last year that the both of them were in grade school. Geez, have you had this blog that long???? If I could be guaranteed to get kids as great as yours I would have popped out a few myself. :)

  2. Heh, that totally brings me back. Watching Star Trek: TNG with my mom when I was like 8 or 9 was one of the highlights of my childhood, and watching Twin Peaks with my dad was among the most warmly remembered moments of my adolescence.

  3. im a little teary. i was introduced to star trek by my parents and i introduced it to my little brothers, and will pass it on to my future children. i also enjoyed watching the twilight zone. i’ve always wondered about twin peaks i’ve never seen it..
    i hope that my calling home is as meaningful to my parents as ryan calling you guys is.

  4. Someday you need to get each of the guys t-shirts that say “I’m the kid Wil wrote about.” They will get so many girls. And the girls’ parents will bust out all Google, and find stories like these, and realize that maybe just this one time, they don’t need to worry about who their daughters are out with.

  5. That is such a nice story. I actually remember reading that blog post which was made before I started reading your blog more regularly. It was one of the posts that got me into your blog.
    I hope my son has fond memories like that of the time he’s spent with me watching geeky stuff.
    I got him into Buffy, Angel, Firefly, The Highlander, Dr. Who (The new version. Actually haven’t seen the originals), Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Heroes, and many other geeky shows.
    We haven’t done STTNG yet but I hope to get a chance to someday. I think he’d like it.
    I hope this means when my son goes out into the world he’ll call and text me like yours do. He did call me the other day from a cell phone store just to talk about memory cards so maybe there’s hope.

  6. I’m the same age as Ryan. That’s really weird. Before I went away to college I used to watch LOST and the 4400 with my Dad every week. If he happened to be away on business he’d email me his reaction to the episode. He called me after the season premiere to see what I thought last month.

  7. My mom is like this. I point out to my friends how much cooler my mom is than their mom. Because my mom listens to Pink Floyd and Elvis Costello and Tool and reads Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett and finished Ico before I did and could quote the Princess Bride backwards and introduced to me to a billion cool things (see, I’m bragging again).
    Now, because she raised me with such awesome taste, I get to introduce her to cool things that I find. I was the one who started watching Doctor Who, and now we’re both obsessed. My brother and I colluded in getting her to watch Kill Bill.(She repaid me by getting me interested in Kung Fu.) At this moment, she is watching my copy of Velvet Goldmine, because she saw that it has Eddie Izzard in it and couldn’t resist.
    I’m a freshman in college, away from home, and I miss her even though we IM every night. And I have to say, if you’re a quiet anxious geekling, it’s good to have a wide arsenal of geeky things you can geek over and lend out and watch together to lure other quiet geeks into friendship. I’m naturally quiet and anxious. Thanks to my mom I have enough geek interests to deal with the world (Quietly. But with a Radiohead tshirt and a copy of Sandman in my hands.).

  8. Thanks so much for sharing these lovely stories. This reminds me of that time long ago when my parents felt the same, and still do at times…
    It’s funny you should mention twin peaks, nearly two years ago now a friend asked me if i could find them the series, so lovely nerd that i am, and always super excited at the prospect of a difficult mission, gathered an incredibly massive collection of everything and anything twin peaks. They were absolutely stunned with disbelief at all i had found (scripts, books, the series, movies, interviews, special features…) I never knew the show existed when i was young but it was certainly an interesting discovery…
    My favorite David Lynch movie of all time will always and forever be The Straight Story. I realise its not his usual infamous style or fantastical in any way other than the stunning reality and inherent beauty of it. Its and incredible story.
    anyways, nice new layout btw! Thanks again.

  9. That was absolutely beautiful. I’m so happy you got to have a moment like that with your son.
    My dad was the one who got me into sci-fi and I remember knowing about Next Generation (if at first in only the vaguest sense) from very early in my childhood. He fostered my brother’s and my love of classic literature, philosophy, and story-telling too. I think Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the first show we really sat and watched together, a tradition followed up by Firefly, and now Battlestar Galactica (the show I got him hooked on to return the favor he started so long ago).
    I remember when my dad wanted to introduce us to the woman who would become our stepmom (whom I love as much as any blood parent), he took us all out to see Star Wars Episode II, then to lunch, so the geek thing was established right away. :)
    Again, truly beautiful post. Thank you for unearthing it and sharing it with those of us who missed it the first time. I think I’ll go e-mail my dad now…

  10. A dear friend of mine has a six-year-old son by a man who doesn’t care much about the boy. She makes sure her son’s biological father is present in his life to the tune of once a week or so. Her current significant other has been the boy’s real father figure since long before she split with his biological father. He loves the child as if the boy were his own. It’s amazing.
    The boy’s linguistic patterns reflect this in an interesting fashion. His biological father is Daddy; he calls his father figure by his name. But when he refers to “his parents” the term doesn’t include Daddy, it’s Mommy and [father figure]. And when he talks about things like “my dad’s desk,” he’s talking about his father figure’s desk.

  11. I think one of my all time favorites was when you talked about filling out college applications but your parents kept coming in your room every fifteen minutes to say that they were proud of you.
    Then you said that you had to go tell Ryan that you were proud of him.

  12. Wil,
    Your blog is a joy to read. It has caused me to realize that you are a great writer. I intend to buy a book when i can.-thanks.
    This entry is no exception. Yes, my sweet boy has been replaced (hes’s 15).
    Still, there are some times when I still see him in there.
    It’s neat that now he’s old enough and we can watch things like
    Red Dwarf and Flight of the Conchords.
    This weekend it was The Jerk.
    and every time I leave to attend night classes or go grocery shopping, after he grunts good bye but before I close the door behind me, I hear him say,
    “Mom, what time will you be home?”
    and I know he’s still in there.

  13. Wil, is he single?
    I realise that it’s slightly wrong and creepy to even ask you that, but he sounds like such a sweetheart the way you tell it. I genuinely like your sons as you see them, which is as it should be IMO.

  14. Wil, that is a fantastic story. I love that you guys still have that sort of relationship. I hope that my kids and I are as close as you are to your boys when they reach that age.
    That brings up a question I have for you… so, I have this 6 year old boy, right? And I really really really want him to enjoy the same types of books I do- stuff like LOTR, Harry Potter, Neil Gaiman, etc. If your boys were 6 again, what would you be reading with them? I’m afraid he isn’t much of a self-starter, so I’m hoping to find a book that will make him WANT to read more. Any suggestions?
    Thanks! You are awesome!

  15. Wil,
    I think it’s wonderful the way you’re raising your kids, and I’m taking notes (my son is 18 months old). I do however, think you can stop mentioning the lack of DNA you share with them. I noticed it a while ago but today’s repost reminded me, and I don’t think it’s really necessary anymore. It doesn’t matter. They’re your sons and, to be truthful, they DO share your DNA. They have gained traits from you that will be passed on from generation to generation, mixing with that of others to create brand new people, all of whom will be a little part of you. You will be just as immortal as those of us who remixed ourselves with another person to create a wholly unique, yet completely derivative work. They’re your kids. Everything else is semantics.

  16. I was introduced to Star Trek by my …mom. Back in the 70s, when it was first on German TV. I watched The Prisoner on my own, though-no one else seemed to enjoy it! (I’ve stayed at Portmeirion quite a few times, too.)
    But I don’t have kids, and I probably never will…

  17. I know exactly what you’re talking about, Wil. It just seems like yesterday the kid was sitting in front of an old DOS computer playing educational games, and now he’s graduated from the UofMinn and is an IT geek doing high-level support.
    More importantly… I’m not his “biological” parent. One of the happiest days of MY life was when he said “You may not be my father, but you’re my dad.” I know I’ve said that before in here… but I think it bears repeating because that’s what’s happened with you and your kids.

  18. When Ryan was 6 and Nolan was 4, I started reading them classic Greek and Roman mythology. There is a fantastic book called “Classic Myths to Read Aloud” that they loved.
    Also: The Stinky Cheese Man.

  19. I’m totally with Jenn F. I also watched TNG with my dad (and still watch re-runs with my father-in-law whenever we go up there), and had a total crush on both Wesley and Wil, actually. I was one of the tweens who devoured everything I could find on will in the magazines. *L*

  20. My mom also started me on Greek, Roman and Norse mythology at around the same age. Almost twenty years later, I’m a lot more into the fantasy genre than she is, but we still give each other book recommendations and trade and gush about every aspect of them until we completely dominate all conversation at the dinner table.
    It also looks like I picked up her taste in music, as well – I thought I had a pretty eclectic playlist, and then one day I came home from class and found my mom blasting Black Sabbath at full volume and rocking out all five-foot-two of herself like nobody’s business.
    Great minds think alike, it seems. :)

  21. “While I do miss him, I can’t be too sad, because my whole goal as his parent was to raise a smart, capable, independent, successful and responsible person.” a lot of parents don’t understand that on many different levels. thanks, wil, for a great post.

  22. I can’t believe I missed this post somehow — I’ve read your blog for what seems like forever. I do not usually comment, but I had to peek in and say that the Zep is one of my favorite bands of all time with Ramble On being one of the most kick-ace tunes they ever did.
    Glad that you and your son could share the love of great music (among everything else.) Great post!

  23. That’s a wonderful post, I got a little misty-eyed.
    My daughter is just 5.5 months, and I spend every day amazed and grateful that I’m getting to share her life, and I am excited to see what kind of woman she becomes. I hope I am as successful in my raising of her, as you have been with your children. This is the hardest, and most rewarding job I’ve ever had.
    And yeah, my mom, sister and I watched Star Trek and TNG as a family and I fully intend to share those shows (and many others) with Amailah as she grows.

  24. I really wonder why I so often have something in my eyes when I read your blog. Funny, this happens only here.
    *wipes eyes again*
    Sniff-sniff-greetings from Germany

  25. You are a good man, Wil Wheaton. By the time I was 6 or 7, my parents, my actual biological parents, had quit telling me they loved me. I think if one of them said that to me now (I’m 33), I would fall over in a dead faint. And really, I know their not saying it was a symptom and not the cause of the many problems that were and are present in our relationship, but I feel like it might have done me good to hear it even every once in a while back in my teenage years when everything was hell. So, kudos to you. I wish you could give my parents some lessons.

  26. I’m so glad you re-posted this story! (It’s now one of my favourites as well.)
    I was excited to find your blog a year or so for the geeky content alone. I love all of your posts (and tweets!) – but your posts about being a step dad and the relationships you have with your sons were an unexpected surprise!
    I am a (geek) Mom with a 7 yr old son who is and exploring the new territory of a relationship with his (geek) step-dad.I hope their relationship develops to be as awesome as yours have!

  27. While I was reading this I was thinking how I used to come home on summer night and watch the end of the Yankees games with my father. He taught me about baseball. I knew the basics but I learned things like what the in-field fly rule was and why it makes sense. I teasure those times because it was time that was just me & my dad. Being the youngest of six these were probably the only times we spent that were just he & I.
    To this day, although I am a Met fan… I cannot hate the Yankees, they are too important to the relationship I have with my dad.
    I am 45 and those memories from late 1970’s are still precious to me. I am sure those memories you & your sons have together will be the same

  28. Classic Myths… I’ll check it out! Sounds like something they’d love. Right now, both of them are into astronomy so we’ve been reading a lot of books about the solar system. Off to a good start, but I’d rather read them actual stories. Thank you for the suggestions!

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