We walk in the door, and I remind my voice to be gentle. Sometimes, she forgets. Tonight, she’s listened and is quiet, waiting. I’m quiet too, waiting for the right words. My son takes off his shoes and his helmet, pushes his scooter behind the door, and starts to walk away, head bent. “Buddy…” I say. He turns, runs, crashes into and climbs me. Crying.
He’s big now, and we topple.
We sit, holding each other right there on the floor of the entry-way.
“It wasn’t my fault,” he says. “I know,” I say. He buries his head in the place between my neck and my shoulder.
“Really?” he asks (wi-we)
“Really,” I say, trying not to think how close the car had come or how I’d yelled.
When I was young, there were two boys named Ricky. Both were next door neighbors in different houses. I loved the first Ricky when I was six.
We hid behind the bushes between our houses and made up secret lives. I was going to run away to the mountains and sell paper fans that I’d colored, accordion folded, and stapled. He was going to be a fireman who didn’t hurt people.
His dad was a fireman.
We pulled our pants down and placed dry kisses on each other’s butt cheeks, promising that it would be forever.
I was never sure whether his black eye was from his dad or his mom but he’d been bad and somebody pushed him into the kitchen table. He told me he was supposed to say he tripped and hit the bannister on the way to the basement.
I told my mom and pretty soon after that, they moved. I still wonder what happened to that Ricky.
“He’s a sensitive kid,” my son’s Tae Kwon Do instructor says to another teacher. He’s smiling, glances at me, and I smile back. He is a sensitive kid. He’d told the instructor that he broke his leg when he missed jumping over the obstacle course and fell down. Still smiling, I look over at my son sitting on the mats. Kids are running and leaping between us. I see my son through their blurs and realize he’s trying not to cry.
I wonder whether going or staying is better. Where once I’d have rushed to him, he’s more aware. I am, too. I wait, then open my arms and he runs. We walk outside to talk.
“I didn’t win,” he says. “I know, Buddy. But it doesn’t matter,” I say, knowing that it matters to him and wishing it didn’t.
After Ricky moved, so did we, and that’s when I met the second Ricky. We moved in before the house was finished, so that my brothers and I’d be able to start the new school year in time. Our family of five lived in the playroom, and used my bathroom, the only almost-done rooms. I met Ricky pretty quickly. “My dad hates your dad,” I said. “I know, and mine hates yours too,” he replied.
For the first time ever maybe, my dad was a person that wasn’t always right and Ricky’s dad was a dad too.
“My dad says you ruined our view,” he said.
“My dad would have moved the house,” I said.
We’re sending out invitations for my son’s seventh birthday party. At first, it was an all-boy’s party. But then he decided that he wants to invite Amy* because Bobby* likes her.
“Well, she can’t be the only girl,” I say. “Maybe there are others you want to invite?”
He blushes and says “Maybe Michelle* I don’t have a crush on her but she’s pretty.”
I wonder if he’s found his six-year-old Ricky and what the next Michelle will be like.
It’s bedtime, and my son relives the events from riding his scooter earlier. I think about the boy who’s always there without his mother. My heart pounds, and I tell my voice to be gentle. She listens, and together, we ask my son about what happened. He’s a sensitive kid, and feels badly about something that truly was not his fault.
“Hey,” my voice and I say gently.
He looks at me. I tell him I’m going to whisper important words into my hands and put them directly into his brain. He nods.
I cup my hands and I whisper all of the words into them. I catch the words before they can escape, and place them on his head. I rub them in, making sure to “get all the brain parts, Mommy.”
We do this over and over and he calms.
He holds my hands in front of his mouth, and whispers. He says “Be gentle when angry or frustrated or mad,” closes my hands and rubs them into my head. “I learned this at school,” he says.
He then does the same for himself.
*not their real names
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s sentence is “When it comes to more youthful days…”
Tell us about youthful days of your own, or about how you miss the ones from your kid’s younger months. Tell us about what you regret or celebrate from your own life, or any life. Basically, talk about youth and how you feel about it today.