Greater than the suck of its parts
Oh, God, birthday party trip to Boston vomit vomit Thanksgiving actual birthday vomit tantrum two days in bed. And that about sums it up.
- Birthday party. We invited Charlie's whole class to a party at the local gymnastics place, where the owners set up what amounted to a well-padded Habitrail and mercilessly raced the kids around it for an hour and a half. Spectacular. Oh, sure, the vibe was slightly 1970's Eastern Bloc -- I don't know how they do it in your country, Bela, but here in America we like to keep a five-year-old's spine entirely within the confines of her body, comrade, in case you've never heard of a little thing called the Bill of Rights -- but everybody kept moving, everyone had fun, and all we had to do was show up, write a check, and console the children with cake once they were finally allowed to stop and untwist themselves from their hellish I mean fun! contortions I mean...contortions.
As an aside, I would like to state that I generally loathe occasions like this: kids' birthday parties, neighborhood potlucks, any sort of get-together based on circumstance rather than affinity. The socialization always feels so awkward to me, and I invariably end up feeling like, well, a dick: either overly, artificially chatty or frozen in awkwardness as I try to figure out what to say to that mother over there who seems to hate everyone but more realistically probably hates only me. But my recent revelation is that pretty much everyone else feels the same way. Wow! Hey! My social discomfort is actually nothing quirky or singular or special at all! We are all just getting through this, doing the best we can! Except for that mother who hates me, who's probably plotting my death.
- Trip to Boston. Because Charlie had the whole week off from school -- who does that? -- we took a quick trip to Boston, our nearest big city. We had the idea that we'd show Charlie some skyscrapers, go to the science museum, and take him to Chinatown -- all of which we did, but to severely muted effect. The first time Ben threw up was on our way into a dim sum restaurant, a big oatmealy blort down his front, my front, and onto the red-carpeted floor, and it was all downhill from there, if you can in fact imagine anything downhillier. Two more payloads followed; Charlie was also feeling decidedly off, to the point of saying at the science museum, "I think I want to sit down for a while." So Boston was a wash, or rather two or three loads of wash, except for my coat, which requires dry cleaning. Charlie held off on the vomiting until the next day, when we were riding home in the car. ...Thanks? Paul held off until we were home, a manful act of restraint for which I truly was thankful.
- Thanksgiving. A friend brought over her four children and her mother. The combined kids were pretty much an unstoppable cyclone of chaos, and it was wonderful. They played outside, they played inside, they played with each other and separately. Even Ben, who tends to be apprehensive when we have guests, eventually allowed himself to be peeled off my hip and appended to the group for minutes at a time. All day long I felt so lucky, so grateful for the noise and confusion -- for the way we all just rolled with it, and also delighted in it.
With the death of my father and the end of our Thanksgivings with Paul's aunt, our holidays are now held at home. I wish we were doing this for joyful reasons instead, but I'm glad we're doing it at all. It will take us some time to find our footing, to create some traditions that mean something to us. But as a work in progress, it's working.
- Charlie's actual birthday. Here you can get your library card at age six, a milestone that has impressed Charlie for quite some time. It's his first real age-related ritual, come to think of it, and he was sensible of the occasion. We tried to take him on Saturday, the day he turned six, but he declined: "My birthday's not until 10 o'clock tonight," he said, "so I'm not truly six just yet." We pointed out that for official purposes, we were pretty sure that'd be okay, unless some low-down squealer squealed, see? but, no, nothing doing. He wasn't truly six yet.
And now he is, and came home on Monday fairly swaggering with pride, having confided his fully-flowered sixness to his classmates at sharing time. I don't know if there's anything more hilarious than a child who feels his consequence, if you know what I mean.
The end of five was rough for us, and our few days of six so far haven't been any different. School is better but home is hard, harder than a quick numbered list can encompass, so we'll save that for another day and speak instead of something lighter: almost dying.
Every year it strikes me how strange it is that Charlie's birth came about when it did because otherwise I'd have died. There is no older idea, I know, nothing that's been more thoroughly hashed over than the cosmic intertwinement of birth and death, all that circle of life hakuna matata gassy warthog shit. But it remains so mysterious to me, how it played out in my life and his -- physically, but also metaphysically. Yes, I almost died, but with his birth, in a certain way, my life began again.
- And then I got sick, with the same illness, I presume, that felled the other three members of my household last week. I didn't succumb until Sunday, but it hit me hard, with terrible stomach pain and a crippling malaise. It was bad enough that it coincided with the start of my period, which customarily involves every system in my body working in concert to become as disgusting as possible, but worse, it coincided with...
- Tantrum. An episode of misbehavior culminating in a tantrum so monumental that Paul and Ben went off on a planned excursion alone, leaving Charlie behind and me in mostly-incapacitated custody. It was a bad morning, shouting on both sides. After a long maternal timeout, during which I debated the question but reluctantly decided that a stiff drink at 11 AM probably wouldn't improve my parenting, I went up to Charlie's room and apologized for shouting. "I shouldn't have done that," I told him, "and I'm sorry. I know it hurts your feelings, and I bet it's scary, too. I wish I hadn't done it." To my surprise and relief, he volunteered an apology, too, the first such glimmer of hope I've had that he knows he bears some responsibility in these situations. "Let's start over," he suggested. He suggested, y'all.
And we did, and it was better. Still hard; these days it just is. But he's a kid who wants to do right. I think he can't always do it, can't always pull himself out of a downward spiral, but I see the desire and I love him for it. I think our job as parents may boil down, in a way, to always being willing to start over.
- And then I slept for two days straight. No lie. As soon as the boys were off Monday morning, I went back to bed and stayed there until three o'clock. And did it again on Tuesday, while Paul took Ben...somewhere. Library? Café? Cigar bar? Heroin tasting? I didn't know and didn't care, so whipped was I by whatever felled us all. By last night I was enough better that I could usefully play with the kids, by which I mean I had the strength, just, to fasten one LEGO to another, though prying them back apart was still beyond me. (Ben was perfectly happy to do it for me by using his trademark technique: intentionally dashing the assembly to the floor, then crying because it had broken.) And this morning I am fine, if still somewhat weak, and ready to rejoin the living. Slowly.
Having summed up the last -- what? three months? God, that was one long holiday break -- I now require some guidance. Charlie has been dying to watch Star Wars, ever since a classmate of his -- seriously, a four-year-old -- started raving about how great it is. At the time, given that we were still squarely in Wonder Pets territory, we told him we felt it was rather strong stuff for little kids, what with all the killing and the death and that one time that guy puts a bloody severed horse's head in that other guy's bed, like, whoa, Seabiscuit, nooooo, but he could watch when he turned six. That was a number I pulled entirely out of my ass, incidentally, and if that's not where people normally store their numerals, well, all I can say is that I guess one day I'm going to shock the bejesus out of a TSA agent.
Anyway, now he is six, and I don't know where to start. I saw the first three movies years ago, and by "years ago" I mean "when they were originally in theaters," and I have almost no recollection whatsoever of the storyline, much less of what the movies might contain that is appropriate or not. (All I remember with any clarity was that part where Lando Calrissian gets a good look at Chewbacca bearing down on his ship and croaks, "We're gonna need a bigger boat.") I also don't know where to begin, which movie to take on first.
Please counsel me. I don't want to get this wrong. I don't mind covering his eyes when Han Solo snicks off Obi Wan Kenobi's ear while bopping to "Stuck in the Middle with You," and I am fully capable of explaining how it all makes perfect sense that Yoda is, as it turns out, Keyser Soze, but I don't want to mess this up, so please let me know what you think.