Friday, January 15, 2010

Time for a new project

For a six-foot-tall boy, a six-foot-long scarf. I run my fingers over it, rows and rows of memories. Peter pedaling his Big Wheel down the steep slope of the driveway, hanging a sharp right and then waiting for my okay to zoom across the busy street to head down Second Street toward the little school where he went to Kindergarten. Peter jamming on his saxophone, sliding across the stage with his guitar, hunched over the Steinway keyboard. Peter letting his pony-sized dog pull him down the street on his scooter. Peter in his infant seat, squinting up at the sun. Peter concentrating on a Lego project, after begging me to separate the pieces by color, which of course I would do. Peter in his headphones, slouched on the sofa, his laptop a constant. Peter shuffling off to walk the dog whose head is now only as high as Peter’s hip. Yards and yards of life. It’s when you think there’s nothing left that can surprise you that it happens. Pete now converses. He inquires about my day. He shares information about his. One night when he was an infant, his barking croupy cough awakened me. He was gasping for breath, and I sat with him for hours in the steamy bathroom. He clung to me, she who would hold him until the fever broke. These days, every day before school he hugs me and pats me on the back. He’s still nonverbal at that hour, but he takes the time to speak in other ways. I have to fight the urge to cling to him. When do men learn not to communicate? In my experience, men want to be left alone. My father was the first in my experience, of course. He’d disappear into the basement for what seemed like weeks, only appearing to eat and grimace. The pattern repeated. Don’t bother me when I’m cranky. Don’t pry when I’m stressed. Don’t talk at the dinner table. I labored to make sure that my son would know how to listen, and how to share. And yet I have feared for years that no matter how much I encouraged him to defy gender expectations, he’d succumb. And then, you meet someone who listens and asks questions that relate to what you’ve said – thoughtful questions. Someone who says that communication is essential. And you remember that your son writes poetry that becomes lyrics for his songs. Just when you think there’s nothing left that can surprise you, it happens. I guess I’m ready for a new project.

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