I Never Will Be Far Away

ice cream

I had a big agenda planned today, a day trip out of town and going to this event and another attraction nearby, and go go go. I bagged it all. The kid doesn’t need complicated. He wouldn’t probably love most of what I had planned anyway. And one of the things he would have loved, canoeing, is an impossibility as my shoulder is still fucked and rowing is just out of the question. When I stopped and thought about the plans for today, late last night while I was cooking, I realized none of this needed to happen, or should.

Instead, we got up a little late, I made us a simple breakfast of bacon, hash browns and fruit salad, extra on the coffee for me. His questions begin immediately upon wakening and are incessant. I don’t have answers for most of them. Who would win in animal vs. animal fights, who the better of two sports figures are, how to list cities, states, countries in descending order of population or size. He demands to know. Everything. It’s both wonderful and exhausting.

It was slightly overcast today, so I knew it would be a good day for the rec center pool because it can get super crowded there when it’s very hot and sunny. I packed a cooler with whatever we had on hand – some trail bologna, olives, I cubed up some cheese, sliced up a cucumber, grabbed the half bag of chips in the pantry and we were off. We made a run to Goodwill after breakfast, dropping stuff off and then going in and me buying a few things I need (I have great luck there). He clowns incessantly in stores. Crawling in the racks, of course, but inside the fitting room is a Lon Chaney man-of-a-thousand-faces scene of mugging, acrobatics and silliness that’s almost too much to be believed, while I squeeze into clothes and mutter about being fat and my son tells me I’m not fat. We hit the gas station for drinks and ice and then the pool, which was gloriously devoid of throngs of people. Just enough to have fun.

We played and played in the water, throwing foam water balls into the buckets that continuously fill and then trying to catch the ball as the bucket tipped over and spilled out the contents. Finally some other boys around his age came, and I made like I had to go to the bathroom so he could play with some peers instead of his old ma. We had our informal picnic at the side of the pool area where you’re allowed to have food. He picked at it, wasn’t that hungry, and it wasn’t much of a lunch anyway so I didn’t blame him.

He was in and out and in and out of the pool and pestered me about getting back in. I was terrible with the sunscreen after the initial application and the partly sunny day was deceiving and so he got a little red in the cheeks and shoulders. We came home and he begged for a snack and I gave him a substantial one, even though it was too late to do that. He read a book and I took a 20 minute cat nap (parenting a little kid solo at 48 is no easy feat) and then started prepping for dinner. Even though it took an hour, he didn’t eat much, because I gave him too much snack, but it was good anyway. The fresh tomatoes from a friend’s garden were like heaven, and the ribs I made for 6 hours last night didn’t disappoint.

We talked about going to the movies, but we didn’t go. He wanted to go to the playground, has been looking for his one friend there, but his friend hasn’t been there the past couple of weeks and nobody knows where he is. I cleaned up from dinner and packed a bag of stuff to do (for me, and for him) and we went over to the playground. His friend wasn’t there, and neither was the woman I made friends with the other night when we were there, so he listlessly played with a couple other kids that were there, while I wrote longhand in the notebook I brought. The kids got into an argument about the freshly patched holes in the road that runs next to the playground, one kid insisting it was coal and D telling them it was tar, and the next thing I knew he came over and his hands were all sticky with the stuff, which wouldn’t come off. He was upset and couldn’t clean them with water or by wiping on the grass. He wanted to play ball with the others, but his hands! I told him he could go home by himself and wash them and come right back.

Home is a long way from the playground. It isn’t like he doesn’t know the way, but it’s around the corner of a carport and then probably 500 feet at least to where our apartment is, so completely out of sight, and all in a busy parking lot with cars coming and going frequently. I let him walk that length alone last year (ONCE) but I followed him without him knowing I was doing it just to make sure he knew the way. But man, I am so paranoid. Not just about the cars, that pay no attention to the myriad kids in the lot, but just that thing that if something DID happen, then boom, done, bye bye custody. So I let him walk away and I tried to sit and wait but after a couple of minutes, I couldn’t wait any longer and I went after him.

I found him in the bathroom at home, unable to get the sticky stuff off his hands. I reminded him that sometimes sticky needs oil to let loose, and we went and got the olive oil container from next to the stove. That and some light scrubbing with the nail brush did the trick, and we went back to the playground.

Then he got hit in the eye with the ball (a baseball) by accident, his eyes already red and taxed from all the time at the pool. He cried a little and let me hug him and then we just sat there a few minutes. I was looking at his profile. His lips are getting a little fuller – he gets that from his Dad. Everyone says he looks like me, but he’s not done growing and changing yet. I could see a little tiny bit of Adam’s apple for the first time, and I thought, my god, he is changing before my eyes from a little boy to a young man, and I am just not ready. It almost panicked me. It’s going too fast.

He was tired, and bored, and irritated with the other kids, and I asked if he just wanted to go home and finish watching some of the Looney Tunes DVDs I got out of the library and he said yeah. On the way back, I asked if he wanted to divert to the gas station before we settled at home, to get an ice cream bar, and that was met with a resounding yes. So we went on down there, and I observed how pretty the wildflowers were on the hill we cross over to get to the road. He picked one and gave it to me. He so rarely has these tender, sweet expressions, and I was tickled to death.

We finished our ice cream bars before we even got home, then zoned out with some cartoons for a bit before I could see he was completely out of gas. I read a little bit to him, and promised I’d come get him later so he could come to my bed with me.

He was out almost before I hit the door.

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