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Take a deep breath. Blow it out. Good. Now take another.

That’s what I’ve been doing since returning from trick or treating: reminding myself to live in the moment and breathe. It’s remarkably hard to make myself do this – I tend to get caught up in the details when I ought to be focusing on the big picture.

Last night, instead of enjoying what is likely to be my last trick or treating adventure with Large (he’ll be choosing friends over family all too soon), I was obsessed with Small.

“Did you say, ‘Thank you’?”

“Slow down. Wait for the rest of our group!”

“Freeze means don’t move a muscle. It does not mean walk slower!”

“Stay on the sidewalk!”

“You don’t always have to be first.”

“Wait for your cousins!”

“Have we lost your sister?”

“I didn’t hear a ‘Thank you.'”

I was already teetering on the brink of sanity by the time Large tattled on Small: “Mom, Henry got a granola bar at that house and he said, ‘What the heck is this?’ instead of, you know, ‘Thanks.'”

When the kindling is dry, it doesn’t take much.

I pulled Small aside and scolded him. He was sullen, as most people are in the face of direct criticism and a strongly worded reprimand. I kept him back from two houses and under the pressure of my scowl, he promised to do better.

He’s excited, I told myself as he ran off. Don’t ruin his Halloween.

He bounced back, remembering to thank a whopping 60% of the candy distributors at the rest of the houses we hit and refraining from running over his younger cousins. But I didn’t. My grump cloaked me as thoroughly as Medium’s vampire cape. I couldn’t wait to get home.

My heart hurts at my own idiocy. Why do I let the little things bother me so much? Why can’t I enjoy the moment more?

I’ve got a year to redeem myself. You’ll remind me, won’t you?

CVS mask plus contact paper and packing tape

Our little goth girl.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Small goes for realism.

 

 

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Small woke up crying. This is uncommon and in my sleep fog I wasn’t sure if I had dreamed his cries or if he was truly sobbing. I waited. His cries intensified. I staggered out of bed to go to him.

“Did you have a bad dream? Are you sick? Did you pee?”

“No!” He wailed louder.

“Henry, buddy, what’s the matter? Are you sick? Did you pee? It’s okay if you did. Just tell me what’s wrong.”

His little body shook. “I’m just…sad!”

“Why are you sad?”

“Cause I’ll never have a real dragon!”

I stood next to his bed, simultaneously amused and annoyed. “Is that really why you’re crying?”

“Yes, and even if I got one, you’d throw it away!”

I glanced around his recently cleaned and purged room. Ah.

“I’m sorry, buddy. I understand you’re sad. Do you want to come into my room and cuddle?”

“No.”

The rejection pierced my haze like a knife. “Ok, then. I’m going back to bed.”

A minute later, I heard footsteps in the hall. I pulled back the covers. He tossed Piggy onto the mattress and climbed in beside her. The tear stains on his cheeks were a testament to the depth of his feelings. I hugged him close. “I’m sorry about the dragon,” I whispered. “If I could get you one, I would.” I paused. Unable to stop myself, I tacked on a redemption clause: “And I wouldn’t ever throw it out.”

“Thankth, Mom,” he mumbled around his thumb.

“I love you.”

He sighed. “I love you, too.”

The kids are playing in the basement; the decibel level is akin to a rock concert. I ask my husband to close the door and search for serenity within my fiction cocoon. I am nearly in the zone when I hear feet pounding on the stairs. Small is whining before he bursts into the kitchen. Since his father is the first parental unit he’ll encounter, I stay on the couch and do my best to ignore their conversation. I am semi-successful until I catch a sentence that concludes with “Mommy.” I am needed. Sighing, I look up from my book. Small is heading in my direction; his face tear-tracked and dirty. I sit up and put on a sympathetic expression. I reach for him, ready to whisper words of comfort and absorb all his hurt feelings, but he hurries past me with nary a glance. Throwing himself on the dog bed next to Paco (who sighs as deeply as I had), Small breathes deeply of musty dog and closes his eyes.

“Brendan?” I call. “What did you just tell Henry?”

“I told him to go snuggle with you or the dog.”

Small stops sucking his thumb long enough to give me an unsolicited one sentence explanation: “Paco cheers me up faster.”

Knowing that my child, whom I spent hours laboring to bring into this world without the benefit of pain-dulling drugs, whom I love, counsel, and care for, whose physical and psychological well-being I put before my own, whose head I have held, butt I have wiped, and knees I have kissed, whose everyday actions I chronicle in the hopes that they might, someday, promote fleeting, happy thoughts…he prefers the dog’s company over mine?

That’s just fabulous.

And the Mommy of the Year award goes to a neutered, middle-aged, red dog whose favorite hobbies are surreptitious sleeping on the furniture and overt cleaning of his ass. “He just makes me happy,” says his son.

Humble pie does not go down well. It almost always gets caught in the throat.

Piggy is our family’s mascot and Small’s near constant companion. She has become so threadbare that I fear it will not be long before Small literally loves her to pieces. I have patched her, re-stuffed her, and darned her to the best of my abilities. When I am outside of Small’s hearing, I refer to her as “Frankenpig.” I’m quite sure Piggy doesn’t mind; she cares only for her kid.

A couple of weeks ago, Medium went to Disney World. Without us. She didn’t go alone (obviously) but she wasn’t with any of her immediate family members. She accompanied our friends and their seven-year-old son, A, who are friends-like-family or “framily” to us. (See how I can make up words just like the media? Brangelina, what?) According to her own and eye-witness reports, Medium had a ball and hardly missed us. It’s possible that she didn’t miss us at all but I’m unwilling to consider that because I missed her terribly and couldn’t wait for her to come home.

We live about four hours from Boston, and she flew in and out of Logan International Airport. The day before she was scheduled to return, my husband and I drove to Beantown with the boys and painted the town Piggy-pink. We hit Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, the Boston Museum of Science, Harvard Square and the Hilton Boston Financial District. We rode the “T” multiple times, much to Small’s delight, and listened to a lecture on rockets given by MIT students. We also terrorized the staff at the Harvard Coop Bookstore but there’s no photographic evidence and some things are better left unsaid.

I put together a short movie of our trip as much to document our family’s experience as to record Small’s first love. Music is “Fall Creek” by Bill Hammond downloaded via freesologuitar.com. Enjoy!

Piggy’s Adventures in Beantown from OINKtales on Vimeo.

We have a basement rec room that is largely unused unless we have overnight guests, in which case presto-chango! it is our guest room, or the kids have friends over, when it becomes a free-for-all room.

Henry has a friend over. It is her first time visiting us and of course, the two of them head to the basement. I am getting dinner together when I hear feet pounding up the stairs.

The pounding stops. “I’ve got to go to the bathroom,” Henry says. “Are you coming?”

“No, I’m staying down here.”

There’s a pause. I know he is processing her expression of independence. Henry rarely chooses to be alone. He is either trailing after his siblings or he is being trailed by his friends. He does not comprehend self-selected solitude.

“Okay,” he calls down. I hear a few more footsteps on the stairs, then: “Oh, Janie*, don’t worry about the scary monsters near the door over there. I turned the light on so they won’t bother you.”

He emerges from the stairwell and before I have composed myself, he darts into the bathroom. I am not surprised to hear small footsteps on the stairs shortly thereafter.

“I’m just coming up to check on the dog,” Janie says.

“Paco’s fine, honey. You know, it’s perfectly safe for you to play downstairs – you don’t have to wait for Henry.”

“No, thanks,” she says to me. Turning away, she calls to him through the bathroom door. She sounds exasperated. “Alright. I came up and am right here sitting next to the wall.”

“I hear ya,” he calls back. Janie and I listen to the sounds of the toilet flushing, the faucet running, the hand towel holder squeaking. The door slides open and he is there, looking for all the world like the cat who ate the canary.

He grins at her, then at me. “We’re going to go back down to the basement. Okay, Mom?” They depart without further ado.

He doesn’t understand privacy but he is a budding master of psychology. My apologies to all of Henry’s friends, present and future. If this is what he’s like at five, Lord knows how he’ll be at fifteen and twenty-five.

*Not her real name.

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