Writing

It’s the torn, overstuffed shoebox,

on the high shelf in the back closet.

It’s the walking there with the kitchen stool,

and the simple tug of the chain for light.

It’s the balance required to stand,

coupled with the difficulty to reach it.

It’s certainly the shape, and the weight of lowering it;

the heavy layer of dust and that sweet stale odor.

It’s always been the past; the fear and time spent away.

It’s always been the present, and the courage to open.

 

 

 

Gatekeeper

It’s a last minute decision to stop at a small playlot that Gus and I discovered on a walk last summer. We left the house early and have a few minutes to spare before Gus needs to be at daycare. I’m also curious about something. I want to know if Gus will like the swing.

Gus has been seeing a physical therapist every week since he was seven months old. Until recently, Gus also worked with an occupational therapist. He started receiving these services because he wasn’t meeting important developmental milestones. He wasn’t rolling or trying to move, and he wasn’t exploring toys or objects with his hands or mouth. Instead, Gus was the consummate observer, who seemed pleased to sit and watch what everybody else was doing.

It’s routine for the therapists to ask several questions during a session. One question that the occupational therapist asked a few times was whether Gus liked to swing at the park. I was always happy to report that, yes, Gus did like to swing. It seemed like the right answer. It was always met with an approving nod. At the time, the nods were important to me. They meant relief and reasons to believe that Gus was going to be fine. They were more important than investigating the question or actually knowing if there was a right answer.

It’s been a season since I put Gus in a swing, and I want to see what the answer will be now. After struggling to slip Gus’s feet in through the awkward holes, he sits rather tentatively. Ready, Boo Boo, you’re going to go for a swing, I say. I gently push him back, lifting him away from me, and release. As gravity sweeps him back toward me, a smile lights up his face. I push him again, sending him away. He giggles. He likes it… but before I can finish my thought, I see that Gus’s expression has changed dramatically. There’s fear in his eyes, and his mouth is turned down like he’s about to cry. All done! All done! he cries.

I take him out of the swing and hold him close to me. He settles quickly and leaves my arms to go running in the woodchips. I guess that I didn’t get the answer or the nod I was hoping for; but, as I watch my son running, I think he’s come a long way, and so have I.

 

 

 

 

Yellow Submarine

Putting Gus to sleep requires three musical numbers preferably performed by both mom and dad. He’s the happiest when a parent is stationed at each side of the crib; this way he can look up and see an adoring, crooning parent out of both corners of his eyes. It used to be that we could sing him anything, but he has become finickier as he approaches the ripe old age of two. I’ll start in with a personal favorite, Baby Beluga in the deep blue sea… only for it to be met with vigorous head shakes and a long string of repeated no’s. Note to self: mark Baby Beluga off the dwindling repertoire.

It’s great when I see Gus having a visceral reaction to a song that he hears. It’s cute and hysterical, and I know that it’s a candidate for the bedtime list. Like when his dad played him Yellow Submarine. Gus went nuts! We all live in a yellow submarine… head bobbing side to side, high knees up and down, grin from ear to ear. It’s a winner! And, really, how can it not be? The song straight up makes you feel happy.

The song has me remembering a conversation that I had with my friend Conor in college. We were reclined on our friend’s roof having a beer and watching the stars. “You know I don’t tell many people this, but my mom says I’m related to Buffalo Bill Cody.” It’s really for laughs. Although, I do remember my mom saying something about it once.

Conor’s reaction is perfect. “What?!” He’s super impressed. “That’s amazing!”

He’s quiet for a moment, and then says,  “Not as cool, but my mom says I’m related to the man who invented the yellow submarine.” This time I’m blown away because I can’t imagine a better response.

“That is cool! I mean not as cool, but cool!” I ramble and continue to play along.

Looking back, and knowing Conor, the yellow submarine suits him. If he came from anywhere, it had to have been some place musical and magical.

Some years from now, when I imagine telling Gus that he’s related to the man who invented the yellow submarine, I don’t think Conor will mind. I might even add… and his name was Conor; and he loved to play the guitar for people, and everyone who had the luck of crossing his path, knew there was something special about him.

 

*In memory of my friend Conor, 2002

 

 

 

A Walk to the Train

I walked you to the train today.

We held hands and leaned into one another like we do.

I laughed in agreement when you said, No one should ever have to do anything but sleep on a day this grey!

I felt the immediate comfort of your hand when we talked about Gus. Why is he so unhappy at daycare? He was the saddest that I’ve ever seen him today.

I shared passing thoughts. I wonder if I’ll just stop writing when the month is over? I hope to find a way to keep it going.

You shared passing thoughts. The next step is to make a website for my practice; Something simple.

Then, I nearly pounced on you when a dog barked wildly from behind the fence. You gave me that funny wide-eyed look and teased me like you do.

We were just about under the tracks when your train came rumbling overhead. Let’s kiss for the passengers, you said. So we made goofy faces, and with exaggerated, puckered lips, we smooched goodbye again and again. Like we do.

 

waking up

little one stirs.

wake.

locate slippers.

approach

small standing shadow.

those arms always,

always raised,

waiting.

scoop.

embrace.

sweep hair

delicately

away.

breathe

the warm,

ripe,

sweet,

scent of sleep.

pause.

promise.

commit

to memory.

 

 

 

 

Cousins

Gus is having quite the new experience with his ten-year-old cousin, William, visiting this weekend. Since his arrival, William has adored playing and roughhousing with Gus. Gus, fairly new to the planet, has not experienced this kind of focused, physical attention for such great lengths of time. I have to wonder what this is like for Gus…

Here comes that new person William again.

He sure likes chasing me and picking me up.

Best to get out of here before he catches me again.

Who knows what he’ll do this time?!

Yikes, he’s gaining on me.

Still figuring out this running thing.

Let’s be real. I don’t stand a chance.

First, my legs are way too short.

Second, these lousy footie pajamas don’t have good grips!

Uh-oh, he’s got me by the waste.

And, he’s flipping me upside down.

He’s got me by the ankles.

And, I’m swinging back and forth!

Ooooooooh! this is kind of nice.

What a fun sensation?!

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

I’m squealing with laughter.

La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la

I could do this all day.

Wait a minute…

Easy now, cousin Will!

Kind of dizzy down here.

Yoo-hoo! Hello! The room is spinning fast!

Help!                    Please!                     Anyone?!

Enough, already!

That’s it! I know just what to do.

This will get his attention. A full blast…

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

PLOP!

Phew! I’ve been released.

Once I can walk again, it’s really best to go hide.

Maybe behind my mom or dad?

I have a feeling he’ll be back for me soon.

 

 

Wolf Ears

M wears green wolf ears every day. Pointy, furry, teal on a headband.

Earlier, I help M paint the inside of a large cardboard box yellow. She takes off her headband, pokes her head inside the box, and paints the back. In a moment, she returns, sitting up on her knees. M is a pretty girl. Her honey skin and dark brown eyes are exquisite features. I’m surprised. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen M without her ears. She looks older suddenly, not so child-like. She finishes covering the back of the box in paint. “What do you think?” she asks.

“Perfect!”I say.

“It looks good enough,” she shrugs with a smile.

“Hey, I didn’t know you could hear without your ears?” I tease, looking at the two bedraggled triangles lying on the newspaper.

“Yeah,” she pauses to restore them. “Not nearly as well, though.”

I admire M. She is nine-years-old about to turn ten and a complete original. She has all kinds of interests including, music, electronics, animals, and comics. Today she is wearing a frilly, floral dress over a pink sweatsuit.

M is kind to me. I’m a newcomer to the school, and she talks to me with a genuine interest, and invites me to participate. Today, it’s painting the box.

M is kind to everyone. She has even taken B under her wing. B, who is little clumsy and shy, and has had a hard time making friends this year.

It’s just before lunch now, and we’re about to celebrate M’s birthday, which takes place over the weekend. The class is excited to celebrate her, and a few children give her a gift of a pink, felt crown; wolf ears peek through the top.

Everyone is singing Happy Birthday. M beams in the middle of our circle. It occurs to me that the crown is fitting: M is a benevolent queen. A queen who shares all the love and kindness she has with her peers. It’s a special kindness, one that can only be generated when you truly love yourself first. May you always have that love, M; my wish for you.