The New Bed

Recently I acquired a twin bed for Sean.  Heretofore, the poor giraffe-legged child had been sleeping in a toddler bed.  Toddler bed, we all know, is code for “crib on the ground”.

I know what you are thinking. “What is wrong with y’all? Can you not even manage to get your six-year-old child a decent bed?”

And the answer to that is apparently not, at least not in a timely manner.

Several times when we’ve had other children at the house, I have overheard them laughing at Sean’s itty bitty bed. And although it didn’t bother him, it made me realize that it was probably time to get him out of the toddler bed.

But finding a new bed wasn’t as easy as I imagined it would be.

It took me a while to find the bed I wanted. For one thing, I wanted an old-fashioned 1950s Beaver Cleaver kind of twin bed.  For months, I searched Craig’s List and eBay and garage sales to no avail.

As it turns out, the Catholic grade school that I attended closed a year or so back and they sold off all the furniture in the convent and my mother bought one of the twin beds. When she found out we were looking for an old fashioned twin bed, she offered it to us.  There is great irony to think that my son is now sleeping in the bed of a now-dead nun who used to routinely whack the holy snot out of me.

At any rate it is a really nice bed, solid maple and just as old-fashioned as it can be.  And the best part – free!

So when my parents came to visit recently, they brought the bed with them and joyful sounds were heard throughout the kingdom upon its arrival.

The next day when AD left for work, I dropped Sean off at school and then my parents and I high tailed it to Sam’s and bought a mattress and box springs.  When we got home, I quickly disassembled the crib-on-the-floor and hauled it up to the attic while my dad set up the “new” bed.

Mom and I put on the brand new sheets, fluffed the pillows and then stood back to gaze upon the marvelous new bed.  And we felt much happiness and no sadness. None.   We did however feel tiredness.  We had been working at a feverish pace because we knew we had to get the job done before AD got home and put the skids to our merry making.

AD does not like change. AD would not want to take the toddler bed down.  AD would have to rend his garments and cry into the crib sheets. He would have to kneel by the tiny bed and hang his head in sorrow. He would have to weep as he tenderly ran his fingers over the rough patches on the frame where tiny teeth once gnawed.  He would have a goodbye ceremony. He would write the bed a little letter and tape it to the bed frame. And this could take weeks, maybe even months.   All while I stood quietly and respectfully off to the side tapping my foot and looking at my watch. All while Sean asked over and over and over when he was going to get to sleep in his new bed.

When Sean got home from school, he took a flying leap into his new bed and declared it awesome. He loved it.

When AD got home from work, he did not declare the new bed awesome, but rather said, “Oh. A new bed.”

And I could see what he was thinking:   “I didn’t know that last night was the last night I would get to tuck him in the little bed.”  And while I have sympathies for his sentimentalities… no wait, I really don’t.

So later that day AD asked me, he said, “Do you not even feel a little bit of sadness that the old bed is gone?”

“No.”

“Not even a little? Not just a teeny tiny tinge of sadness?”

“No.”

“None?”

“No. I feel glee.”

He half smiled at me.

I half smiled back.

AD weeps at what he leaves behind.

I look forward to what lies ahead.

It all works out, for at long last, our six-year-old sleeps in a proper bed.

The Swimming Pool

Recently Sean and I were at our neighborhood pool making the most of a late summer afternoon.  Sean is still not a confident swimmer.  Swimming is just one of those things that he is going to have to come to terms with at his own pace.  I have come to accept that.  I have learned and backed off.  The most I do now is  encourage him to experiment more, to be more adventurous.  To this he firmly says, “No danks!”  No. Way. And we leave it at that.

After we had been at the pool for awhile, another family showed up with a little boy who is a full year younger than Sean, but a better swimmer.  He has a beefier build.  He’s more boisterous and aggressive; he’s one of those little guys who love to rough house and punch and karate kick and that kind of thing.  That’s all well and good, but it’s not our style.  Sean and his daddy rough house, but our policy is that you don’t put your hands on other people.

The other boy wanted to play with Sean, and at first Sean was interested, but it wasn’t long before he grew weary of being punched.  A couple of times I saw Sean stiff arm him and say “Stop it!” but I figured it was a good opportunity for Sean to work it out for himself so I stayed out of it.  Although honestly?  I really wanted to go over and kick some four-year-old butt.  I’m not proud of that, but it’s true.

At one point, I looked over at Sean and we locked eyes.  I could see he was looking for a rescue.  “Dude! Come here for a minute,” I called.  It gave him a dignified out and he came over to splash around with me on the steps of the big pool. For 38 seconds.

Then the little guy followed.  He did cannon balls within inches of Sean.  He shoved Sean off the steps.  He continued to try to agitate him.  Sean tried to politely ignore him to no avail. Finally he resorted to going underwater to get some peace.  At this point, the little boy grabs Sean around the waist and holds him under water. Right in front of me.

Big. Mistake.

Sean thrashes and panics.

I look over at the mother and she is reading a magazine and talking on her phone. She is oblivious.

At that moment, the ire of every mother bear that ever existed rose in my chest and filled my throat.  It’s a feeling that I can’t really describe. I wasn’t mad so much as stirred by something primal. And frankly, that kind of scared me.

I bent over and pulled the boy off of Sean, and as I am setting him on the edge of the pool, I whisper a warning in his ear — but the voice that rumbles out of my throat is not mine but Darth Vader’s.  “Keep. Your. Hands. Off. My. Boy.”

“Or I will hurt you.” No, I didn’t say that part, but I was surely thinking it.

I give him a look that makes it clear that I mean business.  He stares back at me with eyes as big as pancakes.  I narrow my eyes like Clint Eastwood to punctuate my point. He gets up and wanders over to his mother.

And I wish I could say that was that. But that was not that.

He continued to come back and pester us.  So we called it a day and went home.

So then, no tidy moral of the story other than don’t mess with my kid and no happy ending other than I am not writing this from jail.

I Digress And Call It A Post

So then, yesterday was Mother’s Day. Or Sunday. Whatever. To me, Mother’s Day ranks right up there with Boxing Day. I can take it or leave it.  I know. In your head right now, you are saying, “What kind of mother doesn’t like Mother’s Day!” Did you think I couldn’t hear that?

Regardless of whatever personal issues I have with the highest of the Hallmark holy days, I am still obligated to participate.  I crumble easily under the weight of societal expectations to buy flowers and cards and to festively order others to “Have a happy (insert occasion) day!” I just go along. I grumble, but I go along.

Texas has been gray and wet for what seems like two years now, but according to the newspapers it has actually only been two weeks.  And yesterday, Mother’s Day, was no different.  So we drove up to Tuna under a gray cloud of drizzly rain to have lunch with Memaw to celebrate Mother’s Day.

When we arrived, we exclaimed “Happy Mother’s Day” in a festive tone and then we sat down to eat too much.  Papa George had fixed us a yummy meal and it was swell all the way around even though I had to do the dishes.

When we got home late in the afternoon, we noticed an odd bright orb in the sky, so we Googled “bright orb in the sky” and we were delightfully surprised to find out that it was the sun. A few little sunbeams and my girlish giddy and glee returned to wash away all my sour feelings surrounding having a national day set aside to honor the fact that I managed to procreate.

A few sunbeams were all it took for Sean too.  He raced into the house and put on his swimming suit.  And when a 38-pound boy wearing a swimming suit, snorkel and mask is standing in your den, the cuteness will short circuit your brain and you will be rendered powerless to do anything other than say “Okay!”  And that’s how we ended up at the swimming pool late in the afternoon on Mother’s Day.

In my opinion, the water in the swimming pool was fuh-reee-zzzzing!  But according to Sean, the water was “refreshant!” Although my research is not scientific, I believe that human children learn to discern uncomfortably cold swimming pool water around the same time they develop sense enough to come in out of the rain. Unlike chickens however, human children will not drown if they look up when it’s raining. This fact, I have proven scientifically. I’m not sure how that relates to anything heretofore.

So, I sat a safe distance from the edge of the pool and its uncomfortably cold water to watch my scrawny little boyfriend jump in and out of the pool about 658 times;  each time crafting a unique approach and/or creative pose for the amusement of his mother.

“Mom!” he shouted as zipped past in a blur, “Memaw’s AND swimming, all in the SAME day! This is the best day EVER!” And then he disappeared into a big splash of chilly water.  My heart was drenched in joy.

So yeah, Mother’s Day was the best day ever.  And so was every day of the last five and a half years.

The Invisible Line

I remember the first time I heard Sean call me mom instead of mommy.  It was in the Wal-Mart parking lot.  As we got out of the car, he reached up and grabbed my hand and said in his best grown-up voice, “You better hold my hand mom, parking lots can be dangerous.”

I remember how my ears perked up when he said mom.  It was an awakening sort of sound, like at a wedding when someone clinks a spoon on a wine glass — a sound that rises above and is out of rhythm with the other noise of life and makes you stop what you are doing and take note of the moment.

It seemed that in that moment we crossed over an invisible line – mommy on one side and mom on the other, baby on one side and boy on the other.

But the other day, he slipped up and he called me mommy.  He didn’t even notice it, but I did.

And once again, it was the clear call of a tiny bell that says,  stop and listen, take note.  It was a sweet sweet sound in my ear, to be called mommy again, for the first time in a long while.

I wanted to stand very still and savor the moment because I know I won’t be crossing back over that invisible line into babyhood again. We have gone too far.  And honestly, I don’t desire to swim against the currents of time.

But it sure was nice to visit.

Bitter Fruit

Saturday afternoon, Sean and AD took a break from deconstructing Christmas and walked to the park to enjoy the rare winter blessing of sunny and 74.

I finished up a few things and then walked over to join them. As I made my way across the street I could see Sean on the swing set with another boy, both trying to touch the clouds with their toes.

I walked up behind them and listened to them chattering little boy nonsense for a few seconds before the other boy noticed me standing there.

“Your grandma is here,” he said to Sean.

Sean turned his head and saw me standing behind the swing set and then quickly turned back without meeting my eyes.

“That’s my mom,” Sean said quietly in a way that pieced my heart.

No greeting or further acknowledgment was made of my presence.

I’ve been mistaken for Sean’s grandma a number of times in the past five years and honestly, it hasn’t really bothered me. In fact, I usually find it kind of funny.  This time I didn’t find it funny because it wasn’t about me. It was about Sean and his brand new awareness of how others see me.

I don’t really much care what other people think about me but to think that I might be an embarrassment to my child hurt my heart a little bit.   When I embarrass him in front of his friends, and I will, I want it to be on purpose.

Up to this point, in Sean’s eyes, I have been a vision of motherly perfection.  Like a clumsy affectionate puppy dog, he is happy just to be in my company.  He is oblivious to my wrinkles and graying hair and imperfections.  It has probably never occurred to him that his mom is “a little older” than the other kid’s moms.

But now, I could tell in his voice, in the softly defensive way he said “that’s my mom” that he had taken his first bite of the bitter fruit that falls from the tree of a social awareness.

And I wanted to whack him on the back of the head and make him spit it out.

A Children Ache

Every night before bedtime, and sometimes before school, Sean and AD will read at least one chapter from a book of children’s classics.

Having gone through most of the other more exciting and well known titles, we are down to Pollyanna. But he is just as enthralled with Pollyanna as he was with The Swiss Family Robinson.

Stepping up to chapter books like Tom Sawyer and Oliver Twist has presented many opportunities to talk about some of the more unsavory and unpleasant aspects of life.  Many of the characters are orphaned or suffer cruelty at the hands of those who should protect them.  And there is always a concern to AD and me over how much of this kind of information is appropriate for a five-year-old.

But the thing about Sean that continually amazes us is how wise he is beyond his years and how tenderly perceptive he is about the human condition and matters of the heart.  Although we would certainly like to claim credit for that,  it’s simply the way God made him.

If you don’t recall or haven’t read the story of Pollyanna, she is a young girl who was orphaned and goes to live with her Aunt Polly who is a cold and crusty middle-aged spinster.  Aunt Polly suffered a thwarted romance early in her life which left her bitter and she has never gotten over it.  Aunt Polly has a big house, yet she makes Pollyanna sleep in a hot, stuffy, bleak attic and in general gives Pollyanna no affection.  Nonetheless, as the story goes, it is Pollyanna’s way to see the silver lining in every gray cloud.

At one point in the story, AD stopped reading and looked over the book at Sean who was lying in bed.  “Why do you suppose Aunt Polly is so gruff?” he asked.

“I think she has a children ache,” Sean said quietly.

“Oh Sean,” AD sighed, “I think you are so right. A lot of times when people are gruff on the outside, and sad or mean, it’s because they are hurting on the inside.”

It’s true. I had a children ache once too.

Alzheimers and Home Improvement Found To Be Closely Related

Last week, as you may recall, I embarked on a home improvement project. I decided it was time to re-do my guest room and bath.  By my estimate, I’m about half way through.

The thing is, home improvement projects always take a little more time and money than you delude yourself into believing going into it.  I’ve done fairly well on the money budget because I can turn a sow’s ear into a Dupioni silk pillow. I can flat out design on a dime.  But the time budget? Not so much.

So far I have removed the wallpaper from the bathroom and I have painted the guest bedroom walls and ceilings.  I still have to texture the bathroom walls, then prime the bathroom walls, then paint the bathroom walls and then probably glaze the bathroom walls at which point I will wonder what in the heck was wrong with the wallpaper in the first place and then I will  possibly punch myself in the face.

Here’s the breakdown of how much time I’ve spent on this project so far:

Moving furniture out of guest room:  1 hour

Dislodging mattress from stair case:  45 minutes

Removing switch plates: 30 minutes

Wandering around trying to remember where I set down the screw driver: 1 hour

Combing the carpet for the teeny tiny switch plate screws that I dropped:  1 hour

Removing wallpaper:  6 hours

Wandering around trying to remember where I set down the scraper:  2 hours

Painting:  6 hours

Wandering around trying to remember where I set down the paint brush/paint can opener/stir stick/drop cloth:  2 hours

Wiping paint off the bottom of my foot:  45 minutes

Wandering around looking for my glasses which were on my head: 2 hours

Wandering around trying to remember where I set down my iced tea:  2 hours

Wandering around looking for the cordless phone:  45 minutes

Have you ever noticed they never show Bob Villa wandering aimlessly around the set wondering where he set down his screwdriver? Of course they don’t, it’s a one hour show.