Father and son. Both shirtless, we stood in front of the mirror, razors in hand. He carefully mimicked my actions as we apply a thin sheen of Gillette's best before he hefted the razor suspiciously.
"You don't need to rush this," I offered. "These blades may be incredibly thin but they're unimaginably sharp. So take your time."
His dark brown eyes and muscular frame belied his years. Is he really only 15? The past year he's put on 20 pounds, maybe more. Football, wrestling and his high school work load have molded him, softened some of his impetuous edges. He openly discusses the future and his chances of attending the Naval Academy. He's self-aware, considerate and thoughtful even though he's still prone to the occasional burst of ridiculous irrationality.
"Like this, son, draw the blade straight up, slowly though."
I see him as a toddler, running to me in his bare feet, he's laughing as he climbs into my lap, twists his bare feet to me and asks, "dickle mine deets daddy."
He carefully drew the razor up the length of his neck, leaving a path through the cream, then twisted the razor under running water. His eyes followed my hand as I slipped the blade across my cheek.
"Puff your cheeks out, just a bit, this helps even out the contours and you'll get a smoother finish."
The bruises from his last game are almost healed. I lift my chin and he followed suit as the razor glided across the scar left by his first real bicycle ride.The blood flowed freely out of that cut as I applied pressure and comforted him on the sidewalk.
"Pay attention OK. You should always be ready to kiss a girl." He listened intently. "Your mother, grandmother, girlfriend or aunt; doesn't matter which girl but you should be smooth as possible around your lips. Women will notice a scruffy kiss, they may not flinch but they might not enjoy it, either. Ah, but when they pull you close and their cheek lightly brushes against yours and your skin is smooth and supple."
I briefly closed my eyes and slowly inhaled. His eyes moved back to his reflection as the blade hesitantly navigated the valley between his upper lip and nose.
"And you never know how important that kiss may be." He nodded in agreement. "Now, turn the blade sideways and gently draw it across the corner of your mouth, very carefully." He watched me, then followed suit.
"Dad, have you ever shaved with a straight razor?"
"Well yeah, in Manhattan, I stopped in at this salon." I looked at him carefully. "This gorgeous woman gently shaved me with an antique Roberson straight blade. It only lasted a few minutes but it was so memorable. She ran the back of her fingers across my cheek when she was done to make sure I was smooth." I gently nodded and turned to him. "You should be so lucky."
He drew the razor across his chin one last time.
"Now don't wash the shaving cream off, just wipe it off with a clean towel. A good shaving cream is full of conditioners and aromas so you want that to stay on."
He ran the back of his fingers across his cheek then turned to me and smiled. Happy Birthday, son.