With age comes awareness. Okay, not always, but in the case of Gabriel Keats this maxim continues to prove true. It was tough, waiting until after Jonah came home from school to eat his cake (flourless chocolate o-my-gosh-delicious like the best Ding Dong minus the cream filling cupcakes you’ve ever tasted). Not to mention open his presents. We were on high alert and still didn’t see him swipe a couple of the chocolatey treats, even trying to light his own candles and singing himself Happy Birthday in the process. So yes, this year, G understood what “birthday” means.
I was more, um, circumspect. No. I was flat out cranky. Won’t get into that now (or probably ever), but the last few days have been of the keeping-your-head-above-water sort. But in a good way, even a helpful way. Which is just to say (geesh, I use that phrase a lot—why don’t I just come out and say it already?), while I’ve been cranky, I haven’t gotten away from myself. Make sense? Embody the cranky, I say.
Quick side note. When Jonah knows I’m cranky, magical things happen. In part this is because he can’t stand to see me sad or in a bad mood. The slightest turn in my voice and the I love you moms start rolling. We get each other, J and I. We can inhabit the same emotional space: manically sad, prone to meltdown and tantrum. Depleted of nutrients or sleep, the ride is swift and debilitating. Sometimes, Jonah is the only one who can pull me out. “Would you like to talk mom? Would that make you feel better?” He’s said that. My autistic son has asked me that question; and when I responded, “No Jonah, I’m just too sad and mad to talk right now,” he said, “It’s okay. Wanna hear about my dreams last night?” Excuse me Simon Baron-Cohen, but you can stick your theories about autism and empathy where the sun don’t shine.
Enough about that. Gabriel is three. And so pleased was he with his wheelbarrow and his new red rubber boots (which nicely match his new red Blockheads). He flipped over his very own small (also rubber) knife. He was over the moon over his new trash truck. It’s the bomb. Three hatches that open. A front loading dumper, a back loading dumper and a dump the whole bed back option. It even has a handle you can (manually) crank to simulate an engine sound.
John: “That’s one bitchin’ trash truck!”
Gabriel: “It sure is!”
Thinking about the birth of the boys and the blessed fact they’re still alive and fairly well-adjusted is a good way to spend any day. I don’t want to make a habit of posting my poetry online, but I wrote this in the spring, and it seems appropriate to the day (which was actually Tuesday). An ode of sorts—to books and boys.
Happy Birthday G. Thanks for keeping me afloat J. Mama loves you.
Ode on Books and Boys
the page and thought
she heard above
the baby wake—the creak,
the rumble of sturdy baby-
the slats and bolted wood.
the way a mother stops
who senses trouble: a child
troubled from sleep
by dreams or sickness, a woman
troubled to dread
the small hour be disturbed.
But silence prevailed, prevailed
until she turned the page
and hearing felt the tree that pulped
the paper of the book. Its creak
in a quiet wood, sun streams
throwing their straight arrows through
thatching limbs, hitting
their marks on the darkened floor.
The mulch came alive, sent
up a spark of shoot. The motes of
unseen traces moved the way
the boy moves: an atomic
beauty of disorder not so
much bouncing as rebounding from
every met resistance. She turned
again, and again rubbing
the paper between her fingers, feeling
the shifting trees, seeing
the boys among them scrambling
to the top. A script of muscle,
nerve and bone.