Elihu put his head out of the window as we drove home from town, his hair blowing back, a look of absolute bliss on his face. I was relieved. In spite of all the hoopla about this day, and how much Elihu had wanted to spend it here in Saratoga, it hadn’t exactly turned out as we’d planned. Although he had jammed a bit with a street drummer at the start of our day, he’d missed the parade (and anyway the consensus on the street was that it was lame this year) and there weren’t the usual throngs of people on the sidewalks. Instead of him busking and raking in some good cash, we’d spent most of the day under the shade of the enormous maples in Congress Park, Elihu chasing – and catching – his beloved ducks. So far it hadn’t been much different from any other summer’s day. He’d passed on the historical reenactors in their sweaty woolen costumes, he’d passed on the cajun band, he’d passed on the antique auto show. Anything that might have made this day different and special – he just wasn’t into it. And so I napped on the lawn as Elihu showed off for the kids, deftly picking up ducks like a guide at a nature preserve, gently unfolding their wings for all to see, explaining to anyone who’d listen all the wonderful attributes of the humble mallard.
It’s been a hot one today. After a couple hours of duck wrangling, Elihu was not only sweaty, but his clean white shirt was covered in muck. So too was his left shoe; an angry mother duck had tugged it off his foot and dropped it in the pond. ! Elihu asked if we could go home to regroup. We’d come back for the fireworks as we’d already staked out our place with our red wagon and some folding chairs. Going home and getting cool for a bit was not a bad idea. He even said that ice cream sounded good. (I should like to point out that we are not ice cream people. We prefer salt to sweet.) But in that muggy moment, it sounded like a good idea. So we headed back to the car, stopping at Ben and Jerry’s en route. Unlike the coupons that sit unused and long-expired in the bottom of my bag, I did have a coupon for Ben and Jerry’s that he’d won last Halloween. It did not have an expiration date.
We finished our ice cream in the cool of the shop and headed back into the heat to find a band playing just outside. Kids from the middle school I’d guessed. Just a trio – but they sounded pretty good. The drummer was impressive. Elihu stood stock still in front of the band, eyes glued to the drums. I coaxed him around to the back of the bandstand where we then watched the kid on the drums with his magic-trick double bass drum pedals. Elihu was getting excited now. He pulled me close and shouted in my ear, “Mommy – do you hear his snare?? I want mine to sound like that? Why doesn’t it?” I told him that we probably needed new heads by now, and that we should tune them. He nodded enthusiastically with a huge smile on his face. Happy mommy. Happy kid.
The drummer’s dad came around the back and set a bottle of water down for him, and before he left, he reached over and quickly tousled the boy’s hair. Just a second before the young drummer had seemed like a rock star, but framed in the small gesture of his father’s love, he seemed instantly a little boy. I looked at my own son, and imagined him just a few short years into the future. One day he might be rock star, but no matter what, some part of me would no doubt always think of him as my little boy too.
I’d thought we’d stay for the set, but Elihu surprised me by saying “Let’s go now, Mommy, I want to keep this beat in my head! I need to play it before I forget it!” He pulled at my arm. He was serious. On our way out, I had to say hello to the drummer’s dad. He dutifully gave us a flyer of their upcoming shows, and I thanked him and told him he was a great dad. I smiled, then as we turned to go, he told Elihu to be sure and stay with it. Elihu nodded. And we were off.
We rode home with all the windows open. I’d thought to keep the radio off as to help Elihu keep that pattern in his head, but he asked me for music. I turned on the radio as we set out over the country roads. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw a contented boy. “Don’t worry Mommy if today didn’t happen the way we thought. Today has far exceeded my expectations.” I smiled to myself at his choice of words. And what a good little man to reassure me so.
Upon arriving home he immediately went to his drums. I went out to the coop to check on things, and I from there I could hear him playing and playing. It was cool in the basement where his drums were, he was probably in heaven. I thought of how lovely a day it had been so far, and regarded the night yet before us. I was in heaven too. This little break was just what we needed before we set out to cap off our Fourth.