It has been raining in our lovely New England town for approximately four thousand days straight now. Well, maybe just three days straight, but it seriously feels as though we’ve been soaked through. The plan for today–as October looms–was to head out on a quest for mums, corn stalks, and pumpkins. But since Mother Nature has been relentless in her deluges, Oscar and I decided this morning that if we couldn’t go out picking pumpkins, we would make pumpkin muffins instead. All the ingredients were here, so while Don and Edgar worked on their beauty sleep, Oscar and I got to work. He located his favorite spoon from his kitchen set, we gave it a requisite washing, and prepared the batter. My job was seriously limited to merely measuring out the ingredients and taking care of the oven. Oscar stirred with his little yellow spoon until the batter was smooth, then scooped spoonfuls into the muffin tin ensuring that each tin was filled evenly. He even rinsed the dishes while the muffins baked. And to say they were delicious is as much of an understatement as saying Oscar was proud. Everyone raved about his baking, and he beamed.
When I initially asked Oscar this morning if he wanted to make muffins with me, he immediately stopped what he was doing, jumped up and squealed, “YES!” It was so clear to me that as much as he continuously expresses a need to be independent, he thrives on our being together. And he is so incredibly eager to try new things, to take on new responsibilities, to show us and himself who he is and what he can do. Oscar asked me this morning if I thought he had grown in the night. What he wanted to know was had he gotten taller. When I told him he had grown, however, I meant something more than just physical. Every day he grows and matures and shows us who he is becoming. And, yes, he is of course getting taller; but the growing he is doing–at night and during the day–is taking him places. And it is an honor to be present for this journey.
We met in September 1990, but sometimes it feels as though I’ve known him far longer. We started off as colleagues, fellow English teachers–he, a mentor with experience and skills that I admired and strove to emulate. Through the years, Len watched with great care and concern as I negotiated the peaks and valleys of my personal and professional lives, and we became friends. He was at my wedding, and he was on the scene within days of Oscar’s birth.
One late-summer day, as Len, who had since retired, held our sleeping baby, I wryly suggested that perhaps with all his new-found freedom, he might like to babysit Oscar upon my return to work. He said, “Yes!” and the rest was history. Every Wednesday since, Uncle Len has been here for Oscar and Edgar, his rascals. He is patient, kind, has clear expectations, and gets the boys out for fresh air galore. He makes “fruit faces” for lunch and has perfected a recipe for “maple milk” that eludes me. Together, this team of three walks the streets of Newport and has become as much a fixture on America’s Cup Avenue as Len himself.
Oscar and Edgar have been very fortunate in the quality and consistency of care they have received during these early years, and have had a balance of friends and family, men and women to watch over them. And though Oscar will head to Kindergarten next year, and Edgar soon after, and their Wednesdays will look a little different from what they’ve known, we know that the influence Len has had on them will in no small part ensure their success wherever they go. Oscar’s and Edgar’s lives may take them across the country or to the other side of the world, but something tells me they will never be too far from this profoundly and reliably loving presence in their lives.
At 11:44 tomorrow morning we will have no choice but to acknowledge the autumnal equinox. And though fall in New England is positively stunning, it is not without a little sadness that we say goodbye to being warm. Don will have to put away our air conditioners and his shorts, I will have to resurrect my fuzzy socks, and the boys will become increasingly complicated to dress. But today, the last official day of summer, it was warm; and we enjoyed every moment. We took a stroll to our favorite playground, affectionately known as “the mulch park.” There the boys’ physical skills showed themselves to be consistently improving, and I exited with my blood pressure and largely blonde hair intact.
It was then time for lunch at our favorite haunt within walking distance–Panera Bread. We ate outside, which is always a treat, and we ate a lot.
Our walk back home was leisurely and included a new visitor to Newport’s historic waterfront–a well-dressed pirate, who didn’t mind hosting a couple of silly boys who couldn’t get enough of him.
Three out of four of us then attempted to nap away much of the afternoon. However, one of us, who shall remain nameless but happens to be the youngest of our group, decided to spend his naptime singing Rascal Flatts’ “Life Is a Highway.” And I have to say it was time well spent. He got pretty good by the end of it all. We woke up and/or put a bookmark in our singing practice and headed to Applebee’s for dinner, of course, as we said good-bye to Summer 2008.
The leaves have already started to change color and even fall in some instances. Oscar and Edgar have already chosen their Halloween costumes and planned their first annual Halloween party. And I might have turned on the heat in my car one or two mornings last week. Perhaps we’ve all been ready for fall for a while now–all that is except for Don, who still believes we might yet have one or two nights when we need the air conditioner.
Happy Autumnal Equinox! It’s going to be okay!
I am not especially familiar with the work of rapper Busta Rhymes, and I am sure if I were I might regret assigning that moniker to my four-year-old son; but ignorance is bliss, and it is a such a pithy name to describe our boy who rhymes!
Oscar’s propensities for language revealed themselves early, and talking with him, for me, is a sheer delight. But lately he has been manipulating language in such a way–through malapropisms and rhyme–that make his self-described nerdy English teacher mom sit up and take notice.
Tonight instead of playing with his Oscar the Grouch puppet, it was Oscar the Pouch. In explaining to me yesterday afternoon how milk is procured, he said you milk a cow’s gutters. For a snack this afternoon, he asked not for key lime yogurt but key lime motor, which afforded me the opportunity to discuss with him the freeing concept of approximate rhyme. And my personal favorite: “Mommy, are you going to have imperial for dinner?” Of course, he is referring to my beloved Frosted Mini-Wheats, or cereal. Each of these instances, naturally, is followed by twinkling eyes and maniacal laughter.
Having endeavored for the last 19 years to help students to improve their English language skills has been incredibly rewarding, but watching Oscar’s skills blossom as he plays with language is about all the entertainment I require. And I believe that watching this process unfold since its inception has made me a more sensitive teacher as well.
When Oscar was a baby, and I was still in the throes of serious sleep deprivation, I thought I heard him say “Constantinople.” I attributed it to the sleep deprivation, but now I’m not so sure.
They weren’t named after Oscar-Claude Monet and Edgar Degas (or even Oscar Wilde and Edgar Allan Poe); but on Wednesday afternoon, perhaps inspired by the expert artistic tutelage of their Uncle Len, the boys made the executive decision to bring out the paints. Dollops of blue, yellow, purple, red, green, and brown paint were plopped onto their palettes, and they were off. Oscar opted to paint a flower–a single blossom, precise and singular on the page. Edgar made three paintings–the first a whimsical swirl of color, the second a whimsical swirl of color with the addition of some smears made by running his fingers through the paint (and his hair and his mouth), and the third what was once a whimsical swirl of color washed largely away by his pouring the container of water we used for rinsing brushes onto the painting (it’s still drying). His art became increasingly abstract (and wet) no doubt to confound the critics!
When you watch your children paint–or color or sculpt with Play-Doh–you wonder where it will all lead. But this is where it starts. And no matter where their artistic explorations lead them, at least they have the right names.
For their birthdays this year, the boys received a small acoustic guitar from friends of ours. Oscar fairly quickly and not at all surprisingly commandeered it, stating emphatically that his brother was not quite ready to use it properly. He picked it up and held it as if he had been holding a guitar his whole life, using the pick to pluck a few notes here and there. And this weekend Oscar tapped our resident guitarist and teacher extraordinaire–his father–and asked for a lesson. There is a saying that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Well, the teacher has been here all along and quite ready for this moment. Next year’s birthday will see a minature Stratocaster make its appearance here. But for now I hope this little guitar sets the stage for countless musical moments between the boys and their other number-one fan.
I really can’t put my finger (or paw) on what it is between Edgar and cats. From the time he was a baby he was drawn to our fastidious feline Dolores, and she to him. There are pictures of him just months old rolling around on the floor with her, and she just about as delighted as her cat pride would permit her to reveal. Make no mistake, Dolores is a beast. Just last week she caught three mice and decapitated one for our viewing pleasure. She has been known to perch on the stairs and smack passersby with her always-sharpened claws. She has escaped more than once and has made mincemeat out of furniture. Yes, she’s soft. Yes, she’s beautiful. But she is a cat and a feisty one at that. Yet when she and Edgar get together, love is in the air. He is gentle with her, and she seems to trust him. He kisses and pets her and is allowed to touch her tail as well as look into her eyes. He has privileges the rest of us don’t and always has. Perhaps it’s the Leo in him, perhaps it is his spectacular cat imitations. But no matter what, Dolores and Edgar are a pair and a very sweet one at that.