When I left my client's office last week, I declined the offer of a drink at one of those Washington Power Establishments, saying, "No thanks, really, I have to get home to my son," and I, who have not a cent to my name until sometime after the beginning of the month, hopped into a cab and went home as fast as I could. The KoE had called and left me a message asking me to come home. He said he was going to have dinner with grammie, and then come down so we could spend some us time together.
The front door catches all our stuff and we walk into our apartment. The kid takes in the open computer, the papers, the work-related mess all over the living room and asks, "Do you have any work you have to do, Mamma?" his face fragile, hope and resignation dancing across his eyes.
"Boo, you called and said you wanted to spend some private time together, just you and me. And so nope, absolutely not, I do NOT have to work and I'm all yours. What do you want to do?"
"Can we play Keva planks?" he asked. When i smiled, he ran into his room and came back with the box. We made up this elaborate games involving towers and mazes, with little dudes in helmets and dragons and the Ruby Ducky sitting high upon a chair, the object of our hero's attention. Actually, it was a rubber duck that lights up and flashes. All of which meant, of course, that we had to watch Ernie's Rubber Ducky song. And sing along.
The KoE has created a sort of nest out of his bottom bunk. All the blankets and pillows and stuffed animals are piled pish-posh in there, with little areas scooped out for a boy body to take over. And we have cannibalized some crappy, king sized sheets to create a curtain around the whole thing, so he has a safe little hideaway (and the fact that it's still light out at 9PM isn't as much of an issue). We snuggled, and I was so tired, laying on a blanket lump or three and holding my head up with my hand.
"Move your hand, mom!" he urged, and I laughed. "No way, it's the only thing holding my tired head up!"
"Come on, move your hand out of the way!" so I did, and he pushed a pillow at me, smoothing it out and pushing my head gently down. i closed my eyes. He pulled a cotton quilt out from the mess and draped it over me, then patted me on the head. I lay there for a moment and then, "Hmph!" I said, pulling the curtains down. "Hmph!" which sent him into a giggling fit of glee. "Hmph!" SQUEE.
Finally, he created a parallel nest and placed his pillow below mine. He snuggled down and was still. "I love you, mom," he breathed, and I kissed him on his forehead. "Do kisses ever go away?"
“I don’t think so, honey. I think they stay forever.”
“I think I have to wait until I’m older to kiss Fiona.” He thought for a minute. “But what happens if you kiss somebody and then you don’t like them anymore? What happens to the kisses then?”
“Oh, don’t worry about that. The kisses were good when they were given, and that’s what sticks around.” Sure, I’m stretching the truth a little, but if my boy can maintain some kind thoughts for the girls who are going to break his heart, I say give him all the support you can.
He began to hum, then sing softly, a lilting melody that had a repeating motif, with magical words that almost sounded like Chinese. The tune went on for a long time, my boy curled next to me, his sweet little voice without a trace of self-consciousness. It brought tears to my eyes. When at last it was through I said softly, “That was beautiful, sweetheart. Thank you for singing it to me.”
“I made it up myself, and only a few of the words were Chinese. The rest were just things I made up.”
He shifted around, and complained that he’d never be able to get to sleep with all this singing in his head. I reminded him that I used to sing to him when he couldn’t sleep. “Would you like me to sing you a story song?” And so I sang him “The Circle Game”, all four verses, and all the while he hummed a tuneless accompaniment beneath it. And when it was done, he told me, “You sing beautifully, mama. Did you notice what I was doing?” and his voice was so full of pride.
“Yes, you were humming along with me. It was very nice.”
“I love you, Mom,” he sighed.
Oh how I love him too.
He begged for more songs and really, I can’t remember words to save my life. But I muddled my way laughingly through Bowie’s “Starman” and the kid was full of questions and wonder. Did the kids get to see the space man? Did they go with him? did they find out what he looked like?
There were more snuggles, and his delight that the two of us were curled up in his little bed. And he let me go to brush my teeth and get ready for bed, but I had to promise to have a sleepover tomorrow night. We’ll argue over who has to sleep on the top bunk, and no matter how I try, he’ll win and insist that I take the cozy bottom bunk. And we are going to be such tired bunnies tomorrow night, with a full day of camp and work and then the Folk Life Festival to explore.
This is the life I was meant to lead. I need the flexibility of time, so I can give some of myself to my son, every day. And get some of his exuberant, shiny spirit in return.