Tag - Sam

Beach Day
Weather Extremes
Acting Boy
Sam’s Credo
The Difference Is…
Paper Places
Loving You
Of Slides and Such
Don’t Know Much, But I Do Know Some

Beach Day

We are excited, we are nervous. We are headed to the beach with the entire 3rd grade. How lucky that field trips here are decidedly un-school-like. It is easy to be with you, even though you are antsy and talking non-stop.

You are anxious. Truth? Me too.

IMG_bday2We are finding our way. We’re from the land of Target and neighborhood pools and McDonald’s happy meals. What do we know of crabbing and swimming in icy waters, where kids are born running barefoot over rocks and chowda is better than oatmeal.

What do we know of living with less, with breathing in the salt and sea? Of feeling less, yes, but here the less is bountiful and filling — like a song. Well, we know not, but we sing and are better for it each day.

A friend reminded me today: I left a village behind. Every kid needs one, every mom too. It is hard to be a single mom without a village. Well, we start anew.

You make friends, you falter. I do too. We are compatriots, buddy, singing the same tune.

One day you’ll look up and there it will be: you are a child running to something instead of away.

Love, Mommy

Weather Extremes

Nothing like a downpour to slow you down. The boys are at school and I sit here while the rain pounds. We are nearly six months in to our new life where there are extremes in weather: sunny skies so blue you are certain no color exists to do it justice. And then there are the days like today. If I close my eyes I really could go to sleep — no joke. The rain pounds but it’s also hypnotic. If Sam were home and not at school, he’d fret “It could flood! What about the wind? Those clouds are low, Mom!” He’d see menace in the benign.

That’s what happens when you absorb every book you can find on wild weather systems. I believe that it’s important to be prepared, but perhaps it’s possible to be too prepared. For some things.

I was not prepared to be a single mom even though I essentially was just that while married. The fact is I did 90% of everything from day one. It’s the little things that remind me how rough the road is solo. It’s their new fascination with their, ahem, bodies. And it’s how their little boy frames are filling out, their legs stretching impossibly towards their future height. It’s how each of them pushes back trying to redefine the lines between us, necessary to emerging into themselves — I know. But it’s rocky and terrain I neither know nor get — hey, I’m a girl.

Soon they will tower over me. I will be their little mama. John will bend down when he throws his arms around me each morning. That’s good, I think, I’ll be little by comparison — better than a diet.

IMG_rain1Yesterday, unlike today, was mild and breezy. All the windows were thrown open to catch it and along with it, perhaps possibility. Their weekly phone call over, Sam sat sprawled on the couch next to me and we talked again about the divorce. We do this from time to time — he wanted me to feel it from his point of view, he said.

“You think it affected you 100 times, well, it affected me a billion times!” and then explained how when IT first started (the fight that ended with his dad leaving) IT was like an asteroid hit his head and then IT (the separation) turned into a cyclone in his body where tornadoes and hurricanes flooded him, his heart, and then IT (the divorce) traveled down to his legs where earthquakes and fierce winds landed in his feet.

“It was tremendous,” he said. It felt like he was alone in a desert — did I know that?

“I did not,” I said, “but I suspected.” I thanked him for sharing how it was for him and asked if it’s hard to keep all of that extreme weather inside.

He admitted it is. “It’s hardest for the kids.”

This boy is 8 going on 30.

And then, “Mom, will you get married again and give me some more siblings? Please?” I explained how 1) that would require non-existent candidates and 2) someone who already has children (“A sister, I want a sister”), because my child-bearing years are finito.

I didn’t think it the right moment to say I can’t imagine ever wanting to do that again, so instead I took the easy path: “Who knows?” The way his face lit up, I would do just about anything for him. (Just about.)

There is no manual for this life, no guide for getting it right and it makes me sad that my boy can lay it out for me like this: he is prepared for the extremes: he knows firsthand the havoc that can be wreaked by that which is bigger than him. He did not see the low clouds heralding his parents’ divorce, he did not know he lived on a fault line, that the earth could move like that or tornadoes form out of thin air.

And now he does. He is prepared for the worst and I suppose I am now too.


Acting Boy

Dude! My son is an actor. He sports dark shades and a blazer with a button-down. When we first started searching for an outfit for his “fancy clothes” cast party, he sobbed. I was confused at first, what is so anxiety-provoking about getting dressed up? He confessed, finally, “Alright, Mom. I’ll tell you the truth.”

Pray tell.

“I’m not a fancy clothes type of guy.”

I laughed aloud and hugged him, because Dude? I’m not a fancy clothes type of gal either. How I understood him right then. I reassured him he could wear khakis and a nice shirt if he’d rather. Friends dropped by with a bag — a jacket and tie, which Sam refused to look at. As the day got closer, though, curiosity got the best of him. “Can I see the fancy clothes?”

His eyes big, he said “I’d like to try it on.”

Sam’s Credo

I came across this scribbled drawing as I gathered the dozens of pages Sam leaves strewn across the house. Our house is on the market, have I mentioned this? That we need to move? and life on the market means keeping it in showing condition always. An impossible feat in the best of circumstances — really really, difficult with two 8-year-olds. I vacuum, I dust, I hide things in drawers and closets as I shoo the boys closer and closer to the door. Some days I just order them to the car with iPads and tell them to sit … it’s the only way to do it. Otherwise, I spend 15 minutes in one room only to return 10 minutes later to destruction.

Anyways, I digress.

So I was cleaning for a showing and piling Sam’s drawings into a pre-recycle bin — the one I use BEFORE I dispose of his scribbles into the actual recycling bin, when I came across this one. It struck me as simple, direct, a credo.

I  think we need happiness and trust too. Don’t you? And love like this…it would be a good start.


The Difference Is…

The lights off, I tuck you in. Your eyes, heavy with sleep, struggle to stay open. You ask me in your sleepy voice, “Why am I different from other kids?” I ask what you mean and you say, “You know how I get frustrated easily and I can’t catch a ball… and sometimes I talk different?” I explain that everyone is unique and everyone has things that are difficult. Some things are because of autism and there are wonderful, awesome things about you too. You ask me to please enumerate them (and you say “enumerate” in such a way that I laugh and immediately oblige).

“Well,” I say, “You have such empathy, Sam. You are so aware of feelings — you might say you’ve been an A+ student in feelings.” And I remind you how starting at age two you studied the faces of all the Thomas the Tank engines and named their expressions and spent hours drawing pictures of feelings: Happy, Sad, Excited, Scared, Nervous.

“What else?” you ask.

I tell you that I’ve never known anyone who has a memory like yours. Your memory is astounding. You nod, “My brain is full of many facts.” Indeed. I tell you how I don’t know one single person who can draw our U.S. map from memory and tell me with absolute accuracy which state borders which state. Or who can tell me, when asked, who the 7th president was and whether he was Republican or Democrat and if he liked to eat cheese.

You mention your latest subject: Evolution. And you rattle off hominae and homini and homo erectus and tell me how neanderthals became extinct 30,000 years ago and we are part of the Great Apes, one big homini family. Ho.

“You see?” I say and touch your face. “Your memory is something special.” You smile but ask for more.

“Okay,” I say, “your enthusiasm is contagious.” And you ask me (of course you do), “Like a disease?” and I say no, no, no. “I mean your enthusiasm is SO great that other people sometimes “catch it”.

“You mean like a disease,” you say — not a question. I sigh, we are trapped in your literal mind. “Yes,” I tell you, “but a GOOD disease — it’s not a disease, but if it were a disease, it’s something everyone would like to catch.”

“Is stress like a disease?” you ask out of the blue. I tell you that it is, kind of, and you tell me that when I’m stressed that I should practice your techniques. “Oh?” I ask, bracing myself. “First you must count slowly to 4 — like this: ‘1…2….3….4….’ You should also smile more because this will trick your body into not being stressed. People like being with people who smile lots.” I ask if people includes you and you tell me it does.

“You are very wise, Sam,” and I tell you that you are more grown-up than most adults.

“Thank you,” you say, pleased.

I think how time is like a rubber band: it stretches from the past to the present, from what I knew to what I know…until eventually it snaps, and in breaking releases me. Today might be my 12th wedding anniversary but I feel a strange release. I feel free, at least more free than yesterday.

The difference is my boys, everything real and true and honest in my life.

Paper Places

1. assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something
2. one in which confidence is placed

I used to give trust freely, like a gift, but I’m not so giving anymore.

“Mom!” says Sam, “You are QUASHING my CREATIVITY!”

Amused, I ask how cleaning up his mess — the scraps, the tape, the crayons, the scissors — how is that quashing his creativity?

“I need it like this,” he explains. “Don’t you trust me?”

“Trust? Sure — but can we clean up some of it?”

“Now you’re starting to BREAK my creativity. When you tell me to clean up, it is BREAKING me. Don’t BREAK me, Mom.”

Seriously. I sound like a kneecap smasher or a wild horse wrangler — instead of a mom who’s just trying to clean the freakin’ kitchen and make dinner.

I simply do not understand how creativity can arise from this chaos. Even while I see it everywhere: the  complex structures made out of paper and tape, the “water slide”; the “amusement park”;  the “life-size Sam figure” lying in front of my dishwasher — this chaotic jumble of mess is too much.

“Sam!” I try again. “Just clean some of it then. How about all the scraps, we can put them in recycling,” I say, hoping to awaken his earnest “Go Green” crusade, when he will tell me again that he thinks we should ditch our minivan and walk everywhere.

But even as I say it, I realize that I spend far too much time trying to create order from chaos and despite my best efforts, chaos has chosen to land smack in my kitchen and my life. Why fight it any longer. Perhaps the best I can do is grab my own paper and tape and start rebuilding. Trust that a form will take shape.

He pulls me to the kitchen floor, right next to Life-Size-Sam and in front of the Fun House made of orange construction paper. “I’ll show you how the roller coaster works!” How do I not grab the paper car he gives me and vroom vroom it up his paper roller coaster. How do I not smile, here on my dirty kitchen floor surrounded by paper places and crayons and tape.

Always the tape.

Give me a paper house built with tape and conviction any day. It’s the effort and actions that count. Charming words, facile and glib, are like a beautifully wrapped box that is empty inside. Unlike my boy’s paper places, they collapse at the slightest breeze.

Loving You

We sit here and talk about your day. New camp, new experience, new fears. And you whisper, Her name is Mimi, your smile shy. She cried at drop-off and I ask if she did better as the day went on. She was sad, you say. You were relieved you weren’t the only one anxious about a new experience. You tell me about her long yellow hair and how she wears it pulled back in a ponytail. I ask if you and Mimi became friends.

Not yet, you say. You tell me that you’re both getting used to each other first — in your minds. That tomorrow, perhaps, you will be ready to move forward — that tomorrow, perhaps, you’ll be three quarters there. We’ll smile then speak when it’s time. I see how earnest you are and am impressed by your insight: this is how it can go, after all.

Then later, Mommy can I marry you one day?

No, sweetie. It doesn’t work like that. And I tell you how one day when you grow up, you will meet someone who is just right for you, who you will love and who will love you too. And you’ll get married and maybe have kids and Mom will be here (Down the street? Next door?) and I’ll also be known as Grandma if I’m lucky.

But I’m worried. I think I’ll lose you when that happens. Impossible, I say, and tell you about all the many types of love in the world and the love you have for your mom (and the love she has for you, dear Sam) is Forever.

Mommy is forever here loving you.

Of Slides and Such

We are surrounded by hundreds of sunbathers at a very public pool. Even though you are nearing me in height I must hoist you up into my arms (to the amusement of those around us), and walk deliberately into the water. Long ago I mastered the ability to keep my face calm as the icy water envelops us.

We are in now, and as always, you are glommed onto me. Every 30 seconds I say, “John, not the neck!” and pry you from my windpipe. We bob on the water, you and I, and I see you relax in increments. We look for Sam and I point to him high up on the water slide.

You say, “Go water slide?” and I repeat, “Go water slide? Yes or no.” You say, “NO!” Okay. We bob some more, we glide from one end of the pool to the other. With a splash, Sam lands in front of us. You grin. Sam says, “John! Go water slide?” You are excited and flap your hands, I know you want to, how you want to!

“John,” we say together, “Go water slide? Yes or no.”

“YES!” you say. So out we get and Sam grabs your hand. I am hopeful but this scene has played out before: we always come down the slide… just always the wrong way.

We begin our ascent and fall into line behind at least a dozen kids. You are still excited. Sam says, “John, it’s so much fun! Go water slide?” and I see your face waver and fill with doubt. You say, “Go home.” I tell you that it will be great and not to worry, Sam will go first.

Finally we arrive at the top. There are two slides, a blue and a green. Sam shoots down one and I hold your shoulders until the lifeguard gives us the signal. I glance behind me: the line snakes below.

This is it.

“Green!” shouts the lifeguard. You break free, scream and say, “GO HOME!” I glance at the guard, certain that what I see will be impatience and I steel myself for the long retreat down the stairs. Instead I see compassion. He says, “Take your time.” Other kids fly by us while you stomp your feet and yell “ALL DONE!” We are quite the spectacle up here at the top. A few kids stare at you but most smile and tell you, “Hey, it’s fun! Don’t be scared!”

I think this gives us both courage. I kneel in front of you. “John, I know you want to go down this slide. Mommy is going to help. I will put you on it and meet you at the bottom.” You yell your protest again but I see a small smile, which baby, is your dead giveaway. I explain to the guard what I’m about to do and I hoist you again (you are getting so big) and sit you at the top of the slide.

One push and you’re off.

Even though I know the pool at the bottom is just three feet deep, I panic for a second — now what? The guard, who is the calmest, most adult teenager I’ve ever seen, says, “if you shoot down the blue slide you’ll beat him down.” Now your mom hasn’t been on a water slide since the 1970s and really doesn’t care to change that but here I go. I hurl myself down the tube and land what seems like an eternity later with a splash below. I look everywhere for your bobbing head. Are you okay? Did you already get out?

Thirty seconds later you appear (indeed your slide is slower), and the grin plastered on your face is a beautiful sight. I catch you, and hug you. “John, you did it! Baby, you did it! I am so proud of you!”

I see that you are proud too.



Walking to school this morning:
“Mom, isn’t it a gorgeous spring day?” he says, swinging my hand. Yep, I say as I sidestep the worms. The worms, dear god, they’re everywhere. Sam looking up, Mom looking down. Sam looking forward, Mom looking back towards the car.

I suggest we still have time to drive, but he ignores me. We are halfway there, after all. “Do you know what today is?” he asks. “It’s the Spring Equinox!” It is? I thought it was tomorrow, I say, resolute. We will walk to school, okay. I am being walked to school.

“Mom! Winter left the stage at 11:59 p.m. last night,” he tells me. I picture an actor dressed in white exiting a scene and laugh. It left the stage? Where did Winter go? I ask.

“To the southern hemisphere, of course,” he says, as if everyone should know this. I think I know this, it sounds right. “It’s Fall there and Winter is waiting for them!”

I tell him that we are lucky that we have Summer waiting in the wings for us then, and he agrees. “The birds are happy too, they will begin their migration,” he says.

We arrive and I have forgotten the worms and the clouds. My boy, he is my sun.

Don’t Know Much, But I Do Know Some

Here we sit, you and I, across from a table at the bookstore. I am struck at how quiet and peaceful we both are. I peek over my newspaper and see you engrossed in your new book, “Don’t Know Much About the Presidents” (funny, since clearly you do). “Hey Mom, John Tyler had a lot of children,” you say. “Did you know that? FIFTEEN children! The most of ANY president EVER! Isn’t that amazing?”

I agree that’s pretty phenomenal, not to mention excessive. “What’s excessive?” you ask and I tell you it means an awful lot, a real lot, like he had his own basketball team of kids. You like that and laugh.

Then later, in the car, “Mommy, will you and Dad ever be together again?” I take a breath because it’s time and you are smart and you deserve more than half-truths. No, I say, your dad and I will never be together again. Your eyes fill and you bite your lip. In a flash I see a glimpse of the young man you’ll become — sensitive and strong and so much your own person. I pull the car over and climb in the back seat with you. I tell you it’s okay to cry and you do, holding me tight. I do too because I was you, six not seven, and I know how much this hurts, will always hurt. If I could make this hurt go away, if I could I would, but I can’t I can’t and it’s not fair, so not fair.

You look up at me and say, “But I know there’s something I know. The love. There’s a lot of love. You love me and Daddy loves me.” And I rumple your hair and tell you Absolutely. No question. Yes, always. And then you’re done and you ask if we can get to the library already.

We need more books on presidents, you see.

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