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June 2006
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August 2006

Dear Tre,

Happy birthday, son. Ok, to be fair, you turned eleven last week – Tuesday, to be exact. You’ve been asking me all week if I’ve finished your birthday blog yet. I just haven’t been up to it, what with the drama around here lately. However, I’m proud to say I pulled off the actual birthday celebration without missing a beat. I learned that lesson the year you turned five. A few weeks before your birthday I wrecked our van. Let me put that in context. I’d been a stay-at-home mom WITHOUT A CAR since you were born. Five years, son. FIVE YEARS. Then, one bright shining day, we scraped together the money to buy a ratty old van. Three weeks later I smashed it to smithereens. You cannot imagine what that felt like. So. I scaled back the great big “Secret Club” themed birthday party we’d been planning for you.

I heard about that FOR YEARS.

You don’t let go of things easily.

Which brings us back to the fact that you’ve been waiting for your birthday blog. Honestly, son, I don’t think I’ve ever written under more pressure. I’m edging into a new era. Once upon a time I could write whatever I wanted to here about the cute and wonderful things you do. This world was so separate from your world that I never thought about what you would think of what I was writing.

I don’t have that luxury anymore.

There are more and more people in my life who read what I write here. It’s like every year I blog I get to learn more about telling the truth with love. You, my firstborn, are my toughest audience yet. I would throw my computer into the ocean before I would hurt you or make you uncomfortable with my words. But this, here, is what I do. I write about my life. And you are a huge part of my life. So here goes.

Your birthday party this year was at this place.

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This is just one small corner of the bedlam. Can I describe the noise?

No. I cannot.

It wasn’t just the SOUNDS, you know, it was the LIGHTS and the COLORS and the CHILREN RACING AROUND AT TOP SPEEDS. You loved it. You glided around on your new Heelys, laughing and shouting at things with your friends. I find that often these days the things you enjoy most are the things that make my eye twitch just a little.

You’re somewhat wild.

May060003

In part I blame your dad, who not only went to camp with you and let you do stuff like this…

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…he thought it was as cool as you did.

I think that’s one of the reasons I’m enjoying the Harry Potter books so much. You’ve just discovered them, and after you read one of the books, I read it. So much of your life is foreign to me, and it’s very nice to have some common ground. I love it when you peer at me over your book and say, “Ooooooh, I WISH I could tell you…”

I am so thrilled that you have something to say to me, that I struggle to remind you that it’s not nice to give away the ending of a book. But then I get to read the book, and we can talk about it. Can I tell you how much I enjoy that?

No. I cannot.

Also? I have to say…although I know you’ll hate this…

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You are the cutest eleven year old baseball player in the world.

Sorry. I mean “cute” in a very tough, almost menacing way. Really.

When you were a baby I watched your every developmental step so very closely. And so I don’t understand how it happened that you’re suddenly eleven, and so BIG. I was WATCHING. They told me not to blink, and I didn’t…but you seem to be growing up anyhow. And just as I kept saying then, when I was certain that you were at your cutest when you could sit up…until you learned to crawl, and then THAT was the best age…and then you learned to walk, and THAT was the best age…

Here you are, an enormous manchild who clomps around the house like an elephant. The top of your head comes up to my nose and you casually discuss books you’ve read and snakes you’ve caught. You are interested and interesting, and you are learning so fast that you make me feel old and mentally feeble. You run with a crowd that is just as bombastic as you. I don't understand a one of you. I do know one thing:

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This, sweet son, is the very best age yet.

Happy birthday.

Love you,

Mom.


Part 2 - what it's like when Superman loses a finger

I marched up to the desk.

“My husband? Clay M-?” I began. The nurse interrupted me with a hand held aloft as she checked her list of admissions.

“Yes, yes, the one who cut his finger. He’s sitting over there.”

“No. NO. The one who cut his finger OFF. It’s IN A BAGGIE.” She looked startled a moment, but recovered and muttered something about them seeing him as soon as they could. The guard sitting next to her sat up and peered at Clay.

“Seriously?” I got the distinct impression that he wanted to see it. I stomped back over to the seat next to Clay and we waited. I don’t think the admissions people were all that worried about him because he was so CALM. Fortunately, I was there to remedy that CALM THING.

I don’t know if my little temper tantrum helped or not, but shortly after that, we were called back.

Don’t you love the ER system of “hurry over here and wait, now hurry over here and wait, are you still alive? Ok then, wait over here.”? Yeah, me too. When we finally got to the last room to wait, I stood in the corner and made myself look down at the finger in the baggie. I steeled myself for the gruesomeness of it, but was jolted by how familiar it was. I remembered the feel of the wide, smooth, warm surface of that fingernail as I fiddled with Clay’s hand during a movie. I’d looked at that finger, taken a thousand pictures of it only recently at the wedding. It wasn’t just a horrifying detached finger. It was HIS finger. I’d been gingerly carrying it around, setting it down with a shudder whenever I could, and now I felt a rush of tenderness for it. Poor battered thing.

The doctor came in and prepared to check out the damage.

“Ok,” she told Clay, “let go of your finger now.” We all watched, holding our breaths, as he strained to make his hand release its grip. It had been clenched as tight as humanly possible for the last hour, and it opened up with the hesitating slowness of a rusty gate. Blood immediately bubbled up from the wound, spurting in rhythm to his heart. It flowed over his hands and down his elbow to the floor. Someone clapped gauze over it and someone else wrapped a blood pressure cuff around his arm. They inflated the cuff until his hand went waxy and cold and the bleeding stopped. The doctor gave him two shots in his finger to make it numb. That was the ONLY pain control he had at the ER. They didn’t even offer ME any.

The tourniquet? THAT hurt, says Clay.

They had me step out of the room for a moment as they got him set up for an X-ray. As I stood in the hall, I heard a nurse ask the doctor something about the detached portion. I looked up just in time to see the doctor shake her head.

“No, we’ll probably just –“ she pantomimed a snipping motion, and for the first time I seriously thought I might just pass out. I bent over and leaned my forehead against the wall. My vision swam with checkerboard patterns, and I concentrated on the cool roughness of the wall pressing into my skin. The doctor stepped out of the room, and seeing me there, she called out,

“Hey, you ok?”

“Yes,” I lied.

“Really? Because we can’t have you passing out in there.”

“I won’t.” THAT was the truth. I stood up.

There was no way to reattach the finger, the doctor explained. It was too jagged a cut, and those sorts of reattachments usually don’t work all that well. This was fine with Clay, who hadn’t wanted them to put it back on anyhow.

“They never look right,” he said. “And they never work right. And it would mean more surgeries…let’s just get on with it.”

After another eon of waiting, a nurse came in to prep the wound for the hand surgeon. He removed the bandage and I got a good look for the first time. From just above his second knuckle, up to just below where his first knuckle should have been, was a ragged diagonal of skin and blood and bone. Wow, I thought, the special effects here are AMAZING.

Blink.

Blink.

Oh. That’s right.

The hand surgeon came in, seeping calm and cheer as he worked.

“This is not the sort of injury that derails a life,” he said. And, “you will adapt to this just fine.” Clay and he joked while he worked, trimming back the bone with something that looked like an angry, overgrown pair of cuticle nips. The sound was just like the sound of Carmi, chewing on a splintery stick. He cut it back to just above the second knuckle and stitched the skin in place.

And then it was done, wrapped up in a tidy bandage. We waited another eon for discharge papers. I leaned in against Clay’s shoulder and smelled his neck.

“I’m sorry you got hurt,” I whispered. He hugged me and shrugged.

“Could have been worse.”

“I’m so, so glad you’re ok.”

“Me too.”

We finally, finally got the papers, and headed out to the nearest 24 hour pharmacy. As we waited at the drive through for the harried pharmacist to appear, I looked at the clock. 11:32. I nudged Clay.

“Look. It happened four hours ago.”

He looked.

“Yeah.”

We were both quiet. He sighed and shook his head in frustration at himself. “I wish I hadn’t done that.”

It’s the most emotional I’ve seen him get about it. He’s fine. FINE. He hasn’t had all that much pain, and he went back to work today.

“It’s over and done,” he says, “so why worry about it? I’m ok.”

And he’s right. I, on the other hand, am shaken. The past few days there have been several instances where HE has had to comfort ME, which is just wrong.

But that’s what it’s like, I suppose, when you’re married to Superman.


And I was scared of the swimsuits, part 1

Friday after dinner I left Clay to the dishes and shuffled out the door to shop for a swimsuit. I didn’t WANT to, I HAD to. The last time I went swimming I got out of the pool to discover that the back of my swimsuit had sighed and given up. The elastic was suddenly shot all to hell and there was a large TRANSPARENT swath down my back. WAY down my back. Down to baby-got-back. And since Raphi is at a dangerous stage, wherein he can swim, but isn’t safe if there isn’t an adult hand nearby, the fact that I didn’t have a suit meant that nobody got to go swimming. So. Despite my revulsion at the thought of swimsuit shopping, I sucked it up (emotionally and abdominally) and went.

After a half hour or so of thumbing dejectedly through the seven suits they had that WEREN’T bikinis (and maybe being SLIGHTLY distracted by clearance racks nearby), my phone rang. It was my mom.

“Where are you?” she asked carefully.

“I’m at Foleys.” I was glib.

“Where are the boys?”

Why is she using her soothing nurse’s voice?

“They’re at home. With Clay.”

“Ok.” If anything, her voice became calmer. “There’s been an accident. Clay cut himself. I’m going to your house right now.”

I dropped my armload of clothes, just dropped them on…something next to me.

“I’ll be right there.” Mom says I sounded immediately breathless, and indeed it felt like the air had all been sucked out of the room.

I drove right to the hospital, after a few tense phone calls back and forth to the house. When I got there I sprinted into the ER. I saw Clay through the window. He was sitting in a plastic chair. He still had on his leather work gloves and his hands were clasped to his chest like a hopeful child.

His face, however, was grim.

I ran in, sat down next to him, and reached for his shoulder. On the other side of him sat Jim, our neighbor who drove him to the ER.

“Are you ok?” He lifted his hands and said,

“I got it right under the first knuckle.”

I looked at him, then at Jim.

I looked at Clay, then back at Jim, who was holding a baggie.

I looked at Clay, then back at Jim, who was holding a baggie filled with pink-tinged ice.

I looked at Clay, then back at Jim, who was holding a baggie filled with pink-tinged ice and a finger.

“You cut it OFF?”

He nodded.

“The index finger on my left hand.”

“And you’re SITTING IN THE WAITING ROOM?”

He shrugged.

The thing was, he was just so calm. And not shock-calm either. He was calm. He told me how it happened. He’d been cutting wood on his table saw. He made the very last cut, turned off the saw, and reached back to pick up the piece he’d just cut. The wood got bound up in the blade, and it yanked his finger right across it. He looked at his finger and thought, the kids don’t need to see this, and he grabbed it tight to stop the bleeding. He went over to Jim’s house and called into the window that he needed to talk to him. They collected the finger and put it on ice, called my parents to come stay with the boys, and left for the hospital. Kate, our 14 year old niece was there to hold down the fort until my parents arrived.

And here they were.

He’d cut off his finger.

I sat with my hand on his shoulder, frozen, trying to absorb this fact.

It would take me a while.

Tomorrow…part 2


“G’night, Mom,” Tre called through the door. “Love you.”

“Night, Tre. Love you too.”

I heard him open the door to his room, adjust the blinds to his liking, then come back to the door and call again,

“G’night, Mom. Love you.”

Compulsive child.

“I love you too, sweetie. Goodnight.”

I was hiding out in a deep bath, my new, pretty book held carefully above the water. Today was just too much. Running around, meeting people, changing plans at the last minute, a meeting, hauling kids everywhere, and then my dad’s company picnic. They had there (God help us) go-karts that my eldest son was allowed to try his hand at, a bouncy castle that teetered in the wind, and a relentlessly sketchy rain that failed to stop proceedings but left us all damp. As soon as Max and Raphael were in bed I abandoned the remaining children. Tre’s bedtime is later, of course, and tonight we had fourteen year old Kate with us. Her father, Russ, is Clay’s older brother. He’s a single dad and Kate’s been with us during his work hours this week. She’s a sweet girl, amiable as they come, but I suspect she’s ready to start school and leave the world of boy noises behind.

I was ready to leave ALL noises behind, so I had shut myself in the bathroom with my book. But it’s too hot, really, to properly enjoy a bath. I let the water drain and lay in the empty bathtub. I was too tired to give my book the focus it deserves, so after a few chapters I closed it. I would have gotten up and left the bathroom, but there were still people out there, and they would have talked to me. There’s nothing wrong with that, except I have already used up all my words for the day. You can only smile silently in response to so many comments before people start asking you what’s wrong.

So I stayed there, damp and quiet, and listened. Clay was playing Battleship with Kate, doing what he could to fill the late, boring hours.
”How about…I 3?” He said.

"Miss. How about J 5?"

“Hit.”

I don’t believe that Clay has a deep interest in Battleship, but he played on.

“Ok…C 9?”

“Hit! How about J 5, no, 6?”

“Hit.”

It was kind of him, I thought, to sit there at the kitchen table, trying to sink his niece’s battleship. That quality is one of my favorite things about Clay. I place a very high value on kindness. It is a hallmark of our relationship, that we treat each other gently. It is what I have always wanted in a marriage, this level of courtesy. I have been surprised to find that you can be very kind and still have conflict.

I am, however, relieved to find that you can have conflict and still be kind.

And I place a very high value on kindness.

“How about…C 8?” I heard him say.

“Miss.”

I took a deep breath, blew it out, listened, and found it – the peace I’d been looking for.


Did I ever mention that it's not my job to understand them?

You know I am a fan of the boychild of our species, right? That I get all irritated and self-righteous when people refer to boys as stupid? Well, I stand by my position. Boys are marvelously complex and intelligent creatures. They have brains that are capable of calculations and schemes that astound me.

And yet.

There are times when my boys, my precious and brilliant wee men in the making, leave me speechless. What…exactly…are…they…THINKING? Or perhaps more to the point, ARE THEY THINKING?

This afternoon Tre and Max were playing in the neighbor’s yard. There was much raucous laughter drifting over the fence, and after a while Tre came running home, clomping on one shoe and one bare foot.

“MOM! We were having a SHOE KICKING CONTEST [ed. Note: aaaand…the point of that would be…?], and my shoe – “here he waggles his bare foot at me, “– went OVER THE FENCE into the next yard, and they HAVE DOGS! And the people who live there AREN’T HOME!”

Let me pause here a moment, and point out that his tone was not one of concern or worry. It was more like that of a monkey, a monkey that was hopped-up on caffeinated bananas or something. He jumped up and down and grinned and flailed his arms. This was not so much a PROBLEM as an ADVENTURE. There was the potential for LOSS and even BODILY HARM! YIPPEE!

I frowned at him.

“You know, if those dogs eat your shoe, I’m not buying you new Crocs.”

He looked at me as though I’d slipped into speaking Greek, and then shrugged.

“We have a plan!” He hooked his finger through Carmi’s collar. “I’m going to take Carmi over to Ben’s yard and put her in the corner so she will distract the dogs in the next yard – you know how dogs are always barking through a fence at another dog? And then while the dogs are barking at Carmi, I’ll climb over the fence and get my shoe!”

Allow me to interject here – I’ve seen the dogs in question. They are gentle old Golden Retrievers. I was fairly certain that Tre would be safe, even if he climbed over the fence with steaks strapped to his arms and legs, so I waved him on. He bounded out the door with Carmi.

A few minutes later he came back, Carmi in tow.

“It didn’t work. But we have ANOTHER PLAN.”

And he was gone before I could ask. (I admit. I sort of didn’t want to know.)

But whatever the new plan was, it seemed to work! Soon he came bounding back, fully shod.

“I DID IT! I got them ALL BACK!”

“ALL? How many shoes were over there?”

“Well, after I lost my shoe, Max and Tyler each accidentally kicked one of their shoes over too.”

“WHY?”

He blinked at me. Again, with the Greek.

“I don’t know. They didn’t MEAN to. ANYHOW! All the boys climbed up on the fence and yelled and threw pine cones in the yard, and the dogs went over to watch them [ed. Note: most certainly with the same puzzled expression I was wearing AT THAT VERY MOMENT], and while they were distracted, I climbed over the fence.”

He beamed.

“I…well done, Tre.”

“THANKS.”

“Just one more question, ok? If you had to play this…game, why didn’t you face the OTHER direction, so the shoes would go into OUR yard?”

He shook his head at my boundless lack of understanding.

“Mom. That’s not much of a contest, IS IT?”

Oh. I guess not.


“Get your shoes and get in the van,” I called out to the litter of boys in the living room. They sighed and ambled in that direction.

When Tre arrived at the van, he discovered that Raphael was already inside and had locked the door. Tre came storming back in the house, bellowing at the wrongness of the locked van door. Max sat on the couch upside down, his head hanging off into space, shoes no where to be found. I…er…gently suggested he go find his shoes, then marched out to unlock the van. Raphael didn’t have his shoes on either. He didn’t have ANY IDEA where they could be, and assured me that he had looked EVERYWHERE. I found them twelve seconds later, in his room.

Before long we were all shod, all strapped into our respective seats, and on our way, listening to Harry Potter as we went.

This is not a remarkable scene. It is not exciting or stressful or unusual. It is just what my days tend to look like. In my rear view mirror are three brown haired boys, bickering and talking and dropping things that spill. It’s what I do.

I drove them to my parent’s house and dropped them off, then headed home. Clay was out of town for the weekend, so I walked in the door to an unusual sound. I paused and listened to it for a moment. Carmi, our vicious guard dog, woke up and padded out of the boys’ room to stand by me and listen too.

It was silence.

Huh. Too weird.

I showered in peace and prettied myself up and got back in the car. I was on my way downtown to meet some other bloggers. Hula Doula and her husband were there. And Genuine and Mrs. Genuine. The very sweet Karen was there and Cyndy and her Eric and Andrew and his wife Karen and FTS …it was quite a crowd. We had our own room at the restaurant, and we used it well. There was much talk, much food, many drinks, and not a few instances of uproarious laughter. I made Hula look at my pretty shoes. We lingered over the meal for hours, and finally wandered off into the balmy night. As I drove home, thinking about the conversation (and still admiring my shoes, if you really want to know), it occurred to me that this WAS a remarkable scene in my life. Lots of adult conversation, a meal eaten at a leisurely pace, pretty shoes…this is NOT what I do.

I arrived home, where my parents were waiting, bleary-eyed, for my return. They said goodbye and I locked the door behind them.

I prowled the house, checking in on my sleeping boys. Max had kicked off his covers, as usual. Tre heard me walk up to his bed and rolled over to glare at me and mutter something. Raphael didn’t stir as he slept in his Batman costume.

I puttered, putting a load of laundry in, tidying a stack of library books. This scene is mine. This is where I belong. Getting together with other grownups is fun, but I couldn’t help thinking as I slipped out of my pretty shoes, that it felt a bit like playing dress up. It was good to be home.

Besides, the shoes hurt.


Whaddya mean? I get out of the house ALL THE TIME!

After years and years and years of weather that ranged from “dry” to “drought” around here, we’ve had lots of rain the last week or so. I forgot what it was like to have that kind of rain. I forgot what it looked like, shimmering in puddles as you drive down the street. I forgot what it felt like to fall asleep to the steady thrum of rain on the roof, to wake up and hear the whole world dripping. The last time we had steady rains like this…I may have been pregnant with Max. Wow.

I have also forgotten what it’s like to live with all this…how do you say…humidity? Good heavens. I hop out of the shower in the morning, tousle my hair Just So, squint at myself and convince myself that it looks WAVY and FETCHINGLY MESSY, and go about my day. About lunchtime I reach up and discover that my hair? She is still wet. And still not all that styled, thankyouverymuch. Which is a different issue entirely. My POINT is that I’m accustomed to my hair drying in a flash. Fifteen minutes of neglect, and it’s done. But not now, with all this moisture lingering in the air.

And then there’s the mud. I keep walking around in the yard, admiring all the THINGS that GROW when there is WATER (who knew?), and I find that the dirt is sticking to the bottom of my shoes, and it is unaccountably heavy. What is this? I mean, yes, I know that local dirt tends to have high amounts of clay, and that this clay-y dirt has now mixed with large amounts of water…but does this NECISSARILY mean that I now have to have this SUBSTANCE caked to the bottom of my shoes? I swipe my foot on the grass a few times, and then discard my shoes by the front door with a faint plan to deal with them…later. And there they sit, neglected and caked with mud. I walk by them, whistling ever so gaily and looking in the opposite direction. Not going to deal with those, oh no I’m not!

The other day I glanced out the window to see that a delivery truck had pulled up in front of the house. Huzzah, I thought (being a dork), our stuff is here! Because we are the type of people who purchase items off the interweb and have them delivered to our door. It’s an amazing process, and something that I suspect will REALLY CATCH ON.

Anyhow, whenever things are delivered on Tuesdays, the same delivery guy brings them. He is odd and surly, and deposits boxes on the porch without so much as a grunt of greeting. He averts his eyes and scurries away, exuding an air of irritation at us and our boxes. I am somewhat fascinated by Surly Delivery Man (SDM), and keep trying to cheerful him out of his dark cloud.

“THANK YOU!” I call gaily after him, waving madly, “THANKS! HAVE A GREAT DAY!” He hunches his shoulders and practically runs back to his truck while I grin and wave. I just know I’m getting through to him.

So when I saw the truck pull up I prepared myself for the doorbell, so I could accost SDM with cheerfulness. After a few minutes, though, I realized that what I was hearing was the sound of his truck driving away. Had he dropped the boxes on the porch and left? I peered out the front door, but no. No boxes. It was very puzzling.

I meandered out to the garage, and there I found the boxes. The boys had left the garage door open, and SDM had brought the boxes INTO the garage. OH IF I HAD ONLY REALIZED, I could have gone on and on about how helpful that was! He would have LOVED that.

But why? WHY the garage?

I pondered it a while, but it wasn’t until I wandered up the walk to the porch that I realized why.

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It was the shoes. He was avoiding the shoes too.


BLOG! BLOG LIKE THE WIND, FOREST!

Now, I'm sure you all know how very cool Blogging for Books is, right? Well this month it is extra-special cool. Like, I almost wish I could enter again (can't *sniff* you know, because I already won *sniff* you know). WHY? you ask? What's SO COOL? you ask?

Your featured author for this month is....

Joshilyn Jackson herself.

THAT'S RIGHT, FOLKS. Just go here, read the rules, and blog like the wind. YOU could win Joshilyn's brand new book, Between, Georgia. Or, if you like, you could just buy her book. I myself am awaiting delivery any day.

But that's not the point! The point is that you, YES YOU have the opportunity to enter the coolest Blogging for Books contest in recent memory. You don't even have to have a blog to enter. So go! Write! Win!


I’ve mostly managed to avoid taking the boys with me to the grocery store this summer. Today, however, I had to. I was not happy. I know, I know, it makes me less of a mom, but I’d rather remove my eyes with a melon baller than take all three boys to the grocery store. They lose their freaking minds. For instance, today Tre walked along beside me, reading his book and randomly wandering into the path of other shoppers. The fact that I LET him read his book as he walked through the grocery store should hint at how much I DON’T appreciate his commentary during most shopping trips. While Tre was bumbling along, deep in the world of Harry Potter, Max and Raphael were taking turns inciting each other to riot. One would do something shocking, like LOOK at his brother, causing said brother to react with OUTRAGE. Soon they would be circling the cart, shrieking in fear or the desire to maim. It was like shopping from the midst of a tornado. A tornado with frequent requests for overpriced, under nourishing foods.

We managed, however. I hissed threats and meted out punishments and gritted my teeth and eventually we reached the very last aisle. As we made our way toward the front of the store, Max and Raphi skipped ahead while Tre lagged behind, gazing lovingly at the Coke products. I turned to tell him to hurry up, and turned back to check on the other two. There stood Max, but Raphael wasn’t there. I left the cart and walked up to the end of the row and looked.

Not there.

Was I mistaken? Was he behind me? I walked back to the back of the row and looked.

Not there.

I trotted to the next aisle.

Not there.

I ran back to the cart, grabbed Tre and Max and placed their hands on the cart.

“Right here. YOU STAY RIGHT HERE. Do NOT take your hands off this cart.”

And I ran up and down the aisles, calling Raphael’s name louder and louder.

He just wasn’t there.

I have always wondered if, should my child go missing, I would remember what they were wearing. It’s a silly question, but I worry about it. Sometimes, when they’re playing outside, I’ll close my eyes and try to remember what they have on. I hardly ever get it right.

Today I ran up to the store manager and said a little too loudly,

“I can’t find my son.” She looked at me with the friendly/defensive smile of customer service personnel, then saw my face and turned serious.

“What does he look like?”

“He’s five – this tall.” I held my hand up right to the height that would brush the top of his bristly head. “He has brown hair, and is wearing a light blue shirt.” It has a damp half moon at the neck, where he’s been chewing on his collar. “He’s got red Crocs on.” They have streaks of mud on the toes because he was scrabbling in the damp earth at the base of the tree this morning, trying to learn how to climb like his brothers. “He’s missing the top front two teeth.” And when he smiles widely, the gap makes him look mischievous – a little wicked, even. It’s a fairly accurate impression.

Grocery store employees scattered in every direction, assuring me they’d find him. I went back and gathered Tre and Max and together we half-walked, half-ran, looking.

“Wow, I bet he’s scared,” said Tre. “I remember how scared I was that time I got lost.”

“Mmm-hmm,” I said.

“He can’t be far,” said Max. I didn’t reply, and I could feel their anxiety build. We walked up and down the aisles, and I couldn’t think of a single reassuring thing to say to them. Irrationally, I wanted to call Clay, as though he could fix it.

I couldn’t search properly, because I kept getting half way up a row before I would turn and rush back to the courtesy desk to see if they’d found him. I re-searched shelves I’d looked under several times. Minutes ticked by, and I was just about to insist it was time to call the police when…

“We found him!”

A man from the produce department led him toward me. His eyes were huge and red-rimmed, and tears glazed his cheeks. I dropped to my knees and wrapped my arms around him. He latched onto me, arms and legs twined around me like a baby monkey.

“I thought you were gone,” he sobbed, “I couldn’t see you anywhere.”

When he couldn’t find me, he’d gone to the exit, where he’d hidden behind a trash can and watched the people leaving.

“If you went back to the van, I would see you there,” he wept into my neck. Tre and Max reached out to pat his back again and again. I stood and walked in a circle and petted his hair, his back, his sturdy brown legs. I smelled the warm puppy smell of his head and whispered,
”I would never never never leave you. I’m so glad you’re ok.”

It wasn’t until he recovered enough to twist out of my arms and trot over to the horse ride that I heard the thundering of my own heart. I leaned over for a moment, and then crouched down on the floor as my head spun. Stars danced in my vision, and I wondered how long I’d been holding my breath.

He’s ok, he’s fine. It wasn’t fifteen minutes before I heard both, “I should go first, because [pitiful look] I Got Lost” and “I should only have to carry one bag in, because [very pitiful look] I Got Lost.” I think he’ll weather this without too much emotional damage. I hope if he sustains any, it will be the sort of emotional scarring that causes him to NOT WANDER OFF ANYMORE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.

However, I am several years older. Tonight I am torn between gratitude for all my boys being safe at home, and horror at how unfairly vulnerable they are.


Laundry - IT'S NO CHILD'S PLAY

I thought what Clay said, a few days ago, as he pulled dirty laundry out of the backpacks and flung it down the stairs was, “The stuff that WAS in the plastic bag is the gross, wet stuff, ok?”

Gotcha!

Most of it seemed gross and wet, and as I worked my way through Mt. St. Laundry, I assumed I’d dispatched most of the worst of it along the way.

Tonight, as I prepared to wash yet another sleeping bag, I found it.

A tightly tied garbage bag.

It was full of the gross, wet stuff that has been quietly marinating in the basement.

What he’d said was, “The stuff that IS in the plastic bag is the gross, wet stuff, ok?”

Timidly, I tore open a corner of The Bag. An odor, almost visible as a sickly green tendril of doom, seeped out of the bag. The dog ran away, whimpering. The foundation of the house melted.

And then I perished.