My great big boy makes a new friend on Inish Oirr

My great big boy makes a new friend on Inish Oirr

I am feeling rather anxious today.  I can’t say exactly why–Its a generalized anxiety that leaves me feeling jittery and a bit skittish as though I have had too much caffeine.  My chest feels a little tight.  I peer around each corner warily.  I have learned that when I feel this way it is best to draw inward.  To not try and chase my anxiety away with distractions.  I am quiet today and still and just sit with this buzziness.  I remind myself to breathe and that helps.  Alot.

Last night Max and I played this game where we climb under blankets with flashlights.  We take turns lighting our faces and telling stories.  It is one of those games that seems to bubble up from a big collective childhood memory– hardwired in every child’s DNA.  Like saying “Is not”/”Is too” or twirling around and around until you fall on the grass.

Max’s stories are usually about Pokemon or superheros.  Often these days they are spiced with potty humor.  My stories tend to be old favorites–stories told hundreds of times.  Sometimes when Max is feeling scared I tell him stories about a dragon named Max who is very compassionate and brave.  A dragon who feels sad and angry and sometimes scared and always does the right thing anyway.  Max the Dragon is a blatant propaganda tool, I know.  But lately Max seems bored with such lack of subtlety.  He asks instead for stories from my childhood.  Last night he asked me to tell him the story about Uncle Sean and the racoons.  My brother is a big bad macho guy.  Ex Army paratrooper, Iraqi  war veteran, current NY City cop.  When Sean and I were teenagers, a family of racoons invaded our house when my mom and dad were away for the weekend.  Sean barricaded us into his bedroom with his dresser and then he made me, his smaller, meeker sister climb out the window using the ladder from his bunkbed, so that I could open the back door and let the poor scared creatures out of our house while he cowered under his bed.  Max loves this story, I think, because he is able to see his larger-than-life uncle for who he is, a real live human being, with fears and vulnerabilities.  Scared sometimes just like him.  And Max is able to imagine himself one day big and strong, like Uncle Sean even though he might be just “a little freaked out” about something now and then.

Tomorrow Max is going to graduate from preschool.  I have been wistful all weekend thinking of the last three years.  When we started at this school he was still in diapers, chubby cheeked and terrified.  Leaving him at school was so hard that fall–he seemed so vulnerable–so tender–so small.  He has grown now into a long-legged freckled-face boy with a wiggly tooth–a boy who jumps out of the car and runs to the tire swing without so much as a look back at his mama.  He went from a clinging toddler tenatively exploring to a boy running wild on the playground. 

And while he is still sweetly boy, all cuddle and kisses, each day there are moments when I need to look just a little harder to spot his vulnerability.  He tries so hard to be fierce and strong — using the boy code trying to mask his tender self.  “You are SO going DOWN” he says to me when I challenge him to a Pokemon battle.  He has permanently dirty knees. He has started to roll his eyes.  To be a little bit elementary school.  He is ready.

Tomorrow he will leave preschool behind, in the dust.  Like babyhood and the toddler years, this period of our life will fade, captured only in photos, boxed up artwork and not enough anecdotes written down in our memory books.  Fade away until at last we are left with only fragmented memories of these precious years.   The mothers’ day teas, the days when I co-oped and brought his favorite snacks, the silly games we played on the drive to school.  Perhaps he will remember the wind on his face as the tire swing spun.  Or waving to his mama as she drove away.  Will he long for his best friends and their games–or simply the utter the joy of ruling the playground?  Or will he move on to the new joys of elementary school without so much as a look back?   

Knowing how fast his childhood is slipping away I long to hold on to each precious minute.  I vow to relish each  chance to kiss away hurts, to learn about the person he is becoming, to connect with him, to not leave him feeling alone.  But then the phone rings, my computer beckons, the dryer tells me the clothes are done.  I am distracted.  I look up only to find he has fallen asleep for the night on the couch while I finished one last email, the book I promised to read him on his lap.  I pick him up and carry him to bed.

I know now what has set my heart a flutter this day–this eve of a transition both so big and so small.  I am afraid I will blink and I will miss it–this magical childhood of his.

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