The way we play

The boys are stripped down to their unders and socks running the circuit of the house. Across the living room, down the two-step landing into my hallway office, sharp left through the playroom, left up the two-step landing through the kitchen, and skid left through our “dining room” (also back-entry to the house, watching station, art studio, and temporary—if three years can be called temporary—pantry-in-a-bookshelf). Across the living room again. Jonah maniacally repeats “Puppy!” over and over, to the glee and hysterical response of Gabriel. Why aren’t they freezing? I’m hunched over my desk, wearing a wool undershirt with a fleece lined canvas coat on top. My fingers aren’t numb, but they’d be icicles on the boys warm skin. They say they’re playing “Inspector Gadget Brothers”—Jonah’s idea. Later in the evening, G simply calls it the Puppy Game and takes off again.


© Ross Collins

And a word about Germs (Ross Collins). It’s a kooky book the boys love. I thought it might be a little complicated for G, a little worried it might cause J some anxiety about all those germy cooties we can’t see. But they both love it. Probably because the germs (Rash, Pus, Snot, Scab and Pox) are semi-cuddly looking alien monster types. My favorite bit is Myrtle the Magnificent, the girl who never gets sick.


© Ross Collins

Sometimes we have to hide it. Gabriel has assigned each of us a germ role, and he will incessantly tell anyone who will listen just exactly who we are:

“I’m Snot and Daddy is Rash and Jonah is Scab and Mama is Pus. And I’m Snot and Daddy is Rash and Jonah is Scab and Mama is Pus. And I’m Snot and Daddy is Rash and Jonah is Scab and Mama is Pus.” Lucky me; I get to be Pus. At random moments throughout the day, he will say, “I’m Snot,” and it’s true, because the kid’s nose is a faucet we haven’t been able to turn off since December.

This kind of character assignment is one of G’s favorite games (in Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site we have been likewise designated), but it can drive J crazy. He has little tolerance for his little brother at times, especially when he interrupts while J is talking or when he repeats anything ad nauseam. J will even go so far as to cover his ears and scream if he’s overtired or hungry. It’s a tough situation to moderate. Because Gabriel can communicate, Jonah expects him to understand and follow the rules of conversation.

And so you will hear Jonah proclaim, “I need to go to my closet. Will you tuck me in?” (The first time he said this was in response to a child psychologist’s question: What’s your favorite thing to do? Must admit I was caught off guard and found myself stuttering out an explanation.) The boys’ room has two roomy cedar closets—frigid, but roomy. J’s is stocked mostly with Calvin and Hobbes collections, with a rotating selection of comics we’ve checked out from he library. He will plop down on his bean bag. I will cover him with a weighted lap pad and three blankets. Per his instructions I will close the door, draw the blinds in the room, turn the the sound machine on to the “Ocean” setting, flip off the lights in the room and close the door. That’s the way he likes it. Yesterday Gabriel’s presence was particularly unwanted and J made a sign: “Dot coM en Eccet Mi MoM ANd DAD” (translation: Don’t come in—except my Mom and Dad). When I told his intervention specialist about it, she said, “I wish he’d show me he could do that!” (It takes upward of two hours for Jonah to complete a four sentence assignment at school.)

Some days he stays in for ten minutes. Some days thirty or forty-five. When he emerges he is much more amiable, especially to his little brother. Last night they finished the day at the bar—J drawing Cubist renditions of Coyote and Roadrunner, G scribbling our his many versions of the sun.

puppy run


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