Another Year to Grow

Edgar was due to arrive on Planet Earth sometime in late-September 2005.  I like to believe that as he was anxious to get things going–to smell the flowers, feel the sunshine on his face–he decided to come five weeks early.  He was small at a mere five pounds and no change; and today, at 5-1/2, we are still waiting for him to hit 35 pounds.  His gifts to the world, though not yet fully realized but most assuredly hinted at, are many.  He will make this world a better place–and, in fact, I might argue, already has.

Last year at the end of his preschool year it was fairly clear that in terms of social maturity, Edgar (like many, including some of the most fascinating and talented of adults) was still a work in progress.  We could have opted to offer him another year of preschool and hold off starting him in Kindergarten until September 2011; but we didn’t.  We watched him blossom in terms of his intellectual curiosity and felt that the academic challenge of Kindergarten was best for him.  It is not a decision we regret.

But socially, Edgar continues roughly where he started in September.  There have certainly been some strides; but overall, he remains “young.”  He doesn’t misbehave, isn’t a distraction, and, as one of his teachers has remarked, “doesn’t have a mean bone in his body,” but the social cues and norms that are expected of Kindergarteners are occasionally lost on Edgar. 

He may very well one day be a poet or a sculptor (or both), but for now he is a student; and following a very reasonable set of expectations and established routines is part of what he must do.   And right now he sometimes can’t–not that he won’t, but he can’t.  He’s just not ready yet.  So for that reason–and knowing the very capable hands to which we have entrusted his education–we made the decision to allow Edgar an additional year in Kindergarten to grow–literally and figuratively.  

Have we made the right decision?  Only time–and Edgar–will tell us that.  But the decision was made without force; it revealed itself organically, gently–just the way Edgar likes to do business.  It felt right–and, as parents, sometimes all you have is your gut. 

If Edgar had joined the world “on time,” this would not even be an issue.  He would have missed the technical “cut-off” for Kindergarten and currently be in preschool as I write.  But if you ask me, I am glad he came when he came–when he was ready.  Edgar may not do things “on time,” but he does do them in his time.  And lucky us that we can sit back, witnesses to a spirit like few others, one that will continue to be nurtured with the gift of time. 

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December 13, 1986

Dear Oscar, Edgar, and August,

The story of your parents meeting and falling in love may one day be as much an object of interest and curiosity to you as it will be a source of amusement and embarrassment.  So, to save you the abject terror of having to engage with us face-to-face regarding the tale, let me give you the short version now.

We met at a local grocery store, Food Mart, in Newport in September 1985.  I made no secret of the fact (get ready to blush or perhaps groan) that I found your father (then only really known as “Don”) cute.  I was 17 years old and still in high school; he, being seven years my senior, opted to limit our relationship to one of friendship.  We continued to work together and talk together and develop that friendship (a path I would highly recommend as you consider partnering with someone for life) for the next year. 

I continued working with your father as I began college a year later.  One night, as I was ringing a register, I was starting to come down with a cold.  Your father came through my line with some cough drops, orange juice, and water, paid for them, and gave them to me.  He then told me to take care of myself.  And, of course, it was at that moment that I knew he loved me!  (Oh, to be 18!)

At the Food Mart Christmas party on December 13, 1986, we sat together and talked then went out for a pizza with some of our co-workers.  Your father gave me a ride home–and from that night forward we began our journey that brought us to you.  We got married eight years later to the day–December 13, 1994 (which meant we got married, yes, on a Tuesday). 

Recently a friend and coworker from Food Mart found and shared a photo from that Christmas party.  

Stacy, that friend and coworker, is on the left.  Another coworker, Beth, is on the right.  And, yes, that is your 1980’s-clad mother–complete with hair that was not meant to move–in the middle.  (Hey, it was the style!)

Whether you form your family biologically, through adoption, or in some other equally amazing way, your parents meeting and falling in love is often the start. 

Thank you, Stacy, for sharing the photograph that marked the start of ours.

Elmo!

As he stands in front of my computer, pointing intently at the screen, you could almost convince yourself that he understands more about the machine than you do–and, honestly, maybe he does.  His pointing is then followed by a chant that is followed by a question mark that together are impossible to ignore:  “Elmo?  Elmo?!”  ELMO!?” 

When you’re 19 months old and you have been shown something that tickles your fancy, you only need to have been shown the one time for it to have left an indelible mark on your memory.  For August, it’s Elmo, specifically Elmo on YouTube.  Precisely one time I showed him a video of “Elmo’s Song.”  He liked it and now believes with sufficient authority that Elmo resides in our computer and is available and at the ready the second I sit down to work or write or check email. 

So, everything stops–as it should.  August’s emphatic chant cannot be ignored.  I pick him up, place him on my lap, and proceed to scour YouTube for duets between Elmo and the myriad celebrities whose sweet factor goes up exponentially in my mind just for their having spent two minutes and thirty-six seconds with this charming ball of red fur.  And August sits still–for as long as I’m willing to hold him on my lap, cheek to cheek–and watches and claps and beams with delight as Elmo dances, sings, and laughs on the monitor.  And as my sweet baby is most assuredly moving from “baby” to very busy “toddler,” I find myself more and more “willing to hold him my lap” as long as I possibly can.

A Monologue, a Bottle of Syrup, and a Much-Needed Laugh

Oscar has entered what I like to call “The Age of the Monologue.”  He doesn’t just speak in full sentences.  He talks in paragraphs–long ones that can go on for several minutes.  And as his intended listener, all you can do is precisely that . . . listen.  There is no room to get in a word, so it’s best just to sit back and enjoy the entertainment if not edification.

With the passing of my mother and the ensuing cleanup, this week has been grueling in every way–emotionally, spiritually, physically.  But the show here, obviously, goes on.  So yesterday morning as I was preparing breakfast for Oscar and Edgar (while August basked in the last few minutes of his night’s rest), the following monologue occurred at the breakfast table.

Now please understand that I did not record the monologue itself–that is, with any electronic device.  So, the words you see are my recollection of what Oscar said.  The salient details are precise, but some of the transitions are my own but, I can promise, truly in the spirit of what he said.

During the monoluge, Edgar simply and vociferously consumed his waffles–dripping, of course,  with his beloved Aunt Jemima’s syrup, completely ignoring Oscar, possibly smirking beneath the sticky residue around his mouth and on his chin.

And so the monologue began:“Edgar, even though she’s beautiful and I like her syrup, I’m not going to marry Aunt Jemima anymore.  I know you think you’re going to, but, you know, you can’t.  She’s A BOTTLE OF SYRUP!  You know what’s going to happen at your wedding, Edgar?  Everyone is going to come; and, then, when they realize the bride is a BOTTLE OF SYRUP, they’re going to leave.  What do you think is going to happen?  Do you think this BOTTLE OF SYRUP is going to wear a white dress and walk down the aisle?  And where are you going to have this wedding?  I actually think it’s illegal for you to marry a BOTTLE OF SYRUP.  Someone will probably call the police at your wedding, and they’ll come and arrest you.  That’s not a very nice wedding.  I know you think she’s beautiful and you love her syrup, but I think you should find someone else to marry.”

Sometimes, just when you need to laugh the most, to be reminded of the silliness, sweetness, and perfection of life, an opportunity presents itself.  And thank goodness for that.

To Have Versus To Be

A year or so ago, as Oscar was becoming increasingly cognizant of familial relationships, he asked me why he had never met my mother.  His question, from my perspective, seemed not to have been inspired by anything particular; but it was clear to me, based on the earnestness with which he asked it, that it had probably been on his mind for a bit.  I wasn’t prepared for it, but mercifully the most diplomatic of responses came to me: “You haven’t met her because she is not kind to other people, so I can’t take a chance that she would be unkind to you.”  He then asked if she had been unkind to me.  I responded with a simple yes, which was met with one of the most profound utterances I have ever heard:  “Mom, do you ever wish your mother had made an adoption plan for you?”

He understood that my mother, similar to his own birthmother, was not able to be a mother.  But unlike his birthmother, who had the foresight, selflessness, and courage to create his adoption plan, my mother did not.  And I sensed at that moment that he might have pitied me. 

When I learned last night that my mother had died, Oscar asked me if I was going to cry.  I told him that I wasn’t really sure what I would do.  And then he looked at me with soulful eyes and said, “You know, if you need a hug this week, I’m your guy.”

I might not have had the mother that every child deserves, but you can bet that I am going to continue to endeavor to be that mother.  My children–all children–deserve nothing less.

Misfortune Has Made Him Supple

From all reports they were the fastest and best of friends from the moment they found each other in Mrs. Padillia’s Kindergarten class.  They were inseparable–held hands, walked and played together immediately and with abandon.  Edgar seldom referred to him by his name–Thomas–instead opting to call him “my buddy”–a possessive that spoke to the full extent of his feelings.  Their similarities–in temperament and appearance–were remarkable.  And last week Edgar had to say goodbye to his other half.  Thomas’ family is moving–a scenario that is familiar to Edgar but that is a significant loss nonetheless.

Edgar moreso than Oscar has had to field a number of goodbyes–for varying reasons, including changing schools three times during his preschool year.  It’s especially poignant because he is so sweet and so amiable and makes friends so easily.  In a new situation, he generally attaches himself to one other person–and then, perhaps sadly, circumstances have historically dictated that he and his friend, for one reason or another, must part.

This is, of course, part of life, and there is nothing, as a parent, that I can do other than to support Edgar and give him the opportunity to express and understand his feelings.  It strikes me as noteworthy, however, that he seems to handle life’s losses so well.  It’s not as if he doesn’t feel them–he does.  He looks at Thomas’ pictures, has a painting Thomas made for him above his bed, asks to call him on the telephone, talks about seeing his buddy again as soon as possible.  It’s just that he is able to rebound in a way that is really quite remarkable.   I’m not sure if it’s the “practice” he’s had or if it’s as simple as his makeup.

It took me nearly forty years to even begin to understand Edith Wharton’s sagacious sentiment: “Misfortune had made her supple instead of hardening her, and a pliable substance is less easy to break than a stiff one.”  That Edgar lives his life internalizing this notion without even realizing it bodes well for him.  Edgar has always been a source of inspiration to me: He does not wallow in loss.  He sees it, acknowledges it, and understands it for what it is.  Then he moves on–loving others and noticing the beauty that surrounds him.   He is five, and he is a role model–without even trying.