Turns out, I like a little chirping in the house.
Pat, Rachel and Henry left the city in late September after selling their condo in a nano-second. Their new house was a gut-rehab-add- a-second- story kind of project. It would require the entire fall and winter to complete. And the beginning of spring. Their first accommodations were at the maternal in-laws, a charming vintage home with a basement dedicated to Henry, meals served morning and evening, fresh bread made daily, and a doting Gram and Grampa. Why would they leave?
But they did. Maybe Pat demanded equal time in his childhood room, and Rachel was powerless against his charms.
Steve was leaving for his sabbatical in Florida. I would be alone. I’m sure Pat convinced her of my loneliness.(a figment of his imagination; I am not as pathetic as my kids believe.) Pat and Rachel had lived here when they returned from LA and I loved being needed again.
I was up for the adventure. I cleared closet space, emptied drawers, designated cupboards for peanut free food and melamine dinnerware and gave them their own bathroom. The circular drive was perfect for overnight parking, no car jockeying required. Little Henry and his folks swooped in mid-January with garbage bags full of clothing and their life supporting stuff that was not in storage.
Because the basement is Steve’s broadcast HQ, the family room became the playroom. A work bench, toys, a fleet of trucks, books, lawnmower, trains, cars, doctor kit, pirate gear- all the joys of a 2 year old took root. Step stools and floaty things migrated to the bathroom. The demographics of the home front plunged. Neatness counted less. The morning came earlier, the activity quotient expanded.
We jigsawed a normal existence for our new pod. Rachel works a staggered schedule, and Pat’s job demands crazy hours. I functioned as command center, occasional gap filler, Henry playmate. Pretty much all I had to do is be there and love Henry. That is a job description I can happily adopt.
I tried to let them be a family, staying clear during the sweet morning time, and the chaotic dinner/bath/bed time. Rachel is in her last trimester, (Baby girl, woo hoo) and between Work-Pat-Henry-Construction, she is overloaded. The winter made for terrible commutes and a housebound child, but I have to say, we got along famously. Which is not to say that they were not thrilled to see their new home ready for its new family.
Yesterday morning, Pat took Henry to his pre-school, and I knew he would be going to his forever home to nap. And stay.
I have to tell you, my heart broke.
Having Henry here took me back to a precious reality that I was too tired to embrace when I was chasing my own boys. Kids wake up,too early but happy, calling for their lifelines. Mommy, Daddy. Their feet scamper faster than they should. They love their parents purely, trust them to the edges of the world. Every day Henry would stand in the bay window and watch Mommy and Daddy drive away. He banged on the glass, waved and sent them kisses, accompanied by a grunty hug, his arms crossed over his chest. They are his world, anyone else, a visitor. The seedlings of separation are planted, even at this early age, because he wants what he wants, and his parents are an obstacle to some of his goals. (Bed at midnight, chocolate milk, TV) He bargains, is hard to resist. He is a busy boy, not given to cuddling. He let me into his world to play fireman, and we climbed the attic stairs 50 times one afternoon to put out an imaginary fire. Milly became a Dalmatian. We saved kittens.
That was a great day.
There were about a hundred days like it, with thousands of moments. Joy overflowed. Henry grew from being fearful of the dogs to knowing how to love them. He got a fine shiner in a Super Bowl dance frenzy, and claimed he could sleep like a pirate, with one eye open and one eye shut. Yo ho, yo ho- a pirate’s life for him. He learned to put his own coat and hat on, and is gravitating to big boy underpants.
He has memorized a zillion books, and will be able to read to his sister when she is old enough to sit up. He has built with Duplo blocks, created Valentines with glitter for the ones he loves, figured out how to open all the doors here to escape or free the dogs. He met the hamster next door and showed polite curiosity and not a bit of rodent fear. He learned to somersault and trampoline. His scooter skills, even on a bumpy brick driveway are daredevil-y. Praise God for his helmet.
This week we went to the park, a destination last visited in the Fall. Now the kid owns it. Henry walked up the steepest slides, eschewed the bucket swing, teeter-tottered his brains out, scootered with abandon across the basketball courts, and introduced himself to big boys playing hockey. My name is Henry, what’s yours? He found a fireman’s pole tucked into the slide stairs, and leaped onto it. I caught him on the way to his second shiner in residence. He is exploring the world, fearlessly. To see the exponential unfolding of my little man has been a gift to me.
It is time for his life to go linear. Henry has moved 4 times in the last 8 months. He adapted beautifully and gracefully. Quickly. He has never complained. There are lessons there for me, and when I am not so ridiculously sad, I will access them and appreciate these months for the unexpected gifts that they brought me. I feel younger than I did in January. My heart is fuller. I am grateful. Who would have thought this old dog would be shown new tricks?
Steve and I paid a visit to Henry late yesterday, to drop off his treasured trucks and his step stool. He has his own play room, and Gramma’s messy family room is already in his rear view mirror. His big boy bed is nestled in the corner of his new airplane bedroom, sans box spring, so he can burrow in with his stuffed friends and his blankets. His face relaxes visibly when reminded he is in his forever home.
I have puttered here in a half hearted attempt to restore order. I peeled the Mickey Mouse stickers from his curtains. They were washed and rehung. I moved the furniture so I wouldn’t be shocked and sad at the emptiness when I glanced in. Order is over rated.
I cannot yet apply Windex to those greasy fingerprints in the bay window. They say I Love You, Mom and Dad. I cannot wait until you return. No parent or grandparent ever wants to erase that beautiful sentiment. And this particular Gramma will never forget being able to share it.