Well, he’s here. The first thing I thought when I saw my son was that his hair was long and his pants were short. (His nails were long too, kinda looked like the poor kid had been living under a bridge for a bit.) But overall, his spirits were bright and our reunion sweet, and as usual, when it was Elihu, Fareed and me, we had a lovely little get together in the midst of our three very busy lives. This time his father seemed a bit less stressed than he has in the past. Fareed had left his phone behind, as it’s being repaired, so for the first time I can ever recall, he was traveling untethered to the complex life that awaited him back home. No doubt upon his return he will be knee-deep in situations, both personal and professional, all which need his urgent attention.
But for our late afternoon lunch together, he seemed remarkably present. We talked of Von’s memorial service, and of plans for this important first week of school. The weather was perfect and there were enough fish and chips left over to bring home for supper. In spite of a two hour delay to the train’s arrival, it had still turned out to be a very enjoyable afternoon.
Although my plan had been to get us back into our ‘early to bed, early to rise’ routine, Elihu had rediscovered trains on this past trip to Chicago, and with money his paternal grandmother had given him he was able to buy a new car and a new engine (the passenger car lights up on the inside to reveal tiny tables and seats!) and so he was eager to locate his ho scale track, set it up and get the new cars going. You can imagine how I felt when I heard those plans so late in the day (nay, so late in the evening by now as we’d started late). I didn’t want to simply turn into the bad cop parent who automatically puts the kibosh on things ‘just because’, so in the end, since Fareed and Elihu were actually making a working track and things looked good (we can thank my major putting-it-all-away campaign of the past five weeks for them even finding the silly trains) – I left them to it and myself turned in to bed. Last night it was so good to have all three of us together as we seldom are – that I just let it be.
Our visit was over in an instant this time, as Fareed had a flight to Chicago the next morning. There wouldn’t be a family outing to get school supplies, instead just a trip to the airport. Elihu woke up with a sore throat and a bit of a temperature, but we gave him some throat spray and he toughed it out, sleeping in the back seat on the ride to the airport. The goodbye was harder than ever before – Elihu had been with his dad for over a month, after all. We three all group hugged before Elihu and I pulled away and got into the car. As we drove off Elihu remarked that this was the hardest time he had ever, ever had saying goodbye to his father. He himself cited the long visit. And he knew he’d feel better soon, but he had some lasting sadness for sure.
By the time we were back in town, we were back in our own groove. We stopped for some groceries, ending our errand by visiting Elihu’s favorite floral department. We saw shopping cart filled with fine-looking arrangements which were marked for the trash. When we asked if we could purchase them ourselves at a discount we were told absolutely not, that ‘corporate’ wouldn’t allow it. I can tell you, I know waste, I turn my back on it regularly, and Elihu also knows the crap embedded in our systems – but to see this, it just represented such wrong that we were both rather sickened by it. All that effort to get the flowers here – let alone that they themselves are such works of nature – then they are left to die, never to know the purpose for which they have lived at all… Elihu was near tears. We had to keep moving. But as we walked, we began to make a plan: we’d write the CEOs – we’d make them understand, we’d be the ones to finally change the situation and bring justice! Carts of doomed flowers marked to half their original prices would find themselves brightening the homes of people, many of whom could never justify such a purchase ever before! Extra sales! Extra joy! A win-win…. We left the store our chests full of hope for our new future quest…
But shortly we were back with our chickens and frogs, and the campaign to save the fading flowers is itself fading. It’s a perfect day – sunny with a breeze, clouds are passing overhead. I find my zero gravity reclining chair, and uncover my whole self to the sun. It’s good to live off the road. Elihu is busying himself with catching frogs. That’s good, cuz I’m tired on account of our having to rise earlier than I’m used to… So I’m in and out of little cat naps in the sun. Every so often he’ll bring a chicken or a frog over to show me. We’ll admire it together, then he’ll dash off again. Round about 1 the mother’s clock in me goes off and I suggest lunch.
When it’s ready, I lean outside and ring the bell which I’ve mounted on the side of the house for just this purpose. In the thirties and forties it was the dinner bell for the lakeside house where my father spent his childhood summers. It makes me happy to know that that rich, distinct sound is the very same one that called my father from the beach so many years ago when he himself was a young boy as his grandson is now. We have a nice lunch, full of humor and silliness. Then we make plans to go to town so that Elihu might play a little djembe again. He wants to, and there’s still time.
Town is busy, yes, but it’s clear that it’s the last day of racing season. The streets aren’t packed as they’ve been. While I hear Elihu playing some very new ideas – and playing the best he has played in a long time – the tips aren’t coming in, and he’s feeling discouraged. After a while he’s recognized by an old school pal from pre-Waldorf days, so we leave our post and walk to a record store with him and his mother.
Soon we run into our friends from down our own road, we befriend a young man with a lovely Bernese mountain dog, and learn the guy working at the record store plays drums. It’s all a nice, serendipitous hang, and it seems a charming hour of our life has passed, until we part and head for the car.
As we near the car Elihu begins to break down. I wonder if it might not be part of the transition again. We get into the car, and he begins to talk about what’s on his heart. Elihu weeps his discontent to me. He is sad that there is no sense of connection with people. He feels people make pleasantries rather than real interaction. He says he wonders why he’s even on this stupid planet because he just doesn’t feel he belongs here. I know this is in part because of the transition. It is. And he’s old enough that I can posit this to him without creating a worse scene. I ask him. He nods, he agrees. But he adds that it’s much more than just having difficulty switching gears.
He tells me that his ‘soul’ is not happy. That this town makes his ‘soul hurt’. I explain that it might be because this town is all about making money, and then spending it. Everyone is chasing the thing that will make them feel good. The next outfit, the next restaurant meal, always the next… This is not a culture of connection. It is a culture of distraction. I feel it too. And that’s precisely why we need to make compelling music and beautiful drawings and share these things with others. We need to help create the connection we feel is missing.
We just sit for a while and think. With the windows open we can hear 86-year-old Jamaican Cecil pickin out melodies on his banjo across the street on his bench. “Don’t worry” he sings, “bout a ting, ev’ry little ting’s gonna be alright”. It helps. I tell Elihu to cry if he needs to, not to stop. So he does. He weeps. (It would only be for me that I should ask him to stop, for it is heartbreaking to hear someone else’s discontent so acutely.) He’s ok for the moment, but we need to get home.
When we do get back, I throw yesterday’s fish into the oven for our supper, and join Elihu on the couch. We nestle ourselves into the cushions and finally, my arms are around my son. We just sit. We listen to the the wind change, and to a summer rain begin, a blue jay scolding. A lovely evening breeze blows into the house and past us. He feels better, and so do I. After a while I suggest we play a game, so we find Mancala and In A Pickle and do our best to play each game through to its successful conclusion. But we’re not great rule-followers or rule-understanders, so we make up some of our own, and we do our best to just have fun. Which, thankfully, we do. We enjoy a nice dinner and are just about to retire to a much-needed bath when Maximus begins to honk outside. We have guests.
Turns out it’s our neighbor Zac, come to give us two big bags of wood chips from his mill. Perfect, we could definitely use em in our coop. We throw on our shoes, Elihu his dark glasses and head out to say hi and thanks. We get to talking and hanging out, and long story short, Elihu’s glasses fall to the driveway and as Zac drives off they get crunched beneath his tires. Which would have been fine if Elihu hadn’t just left his other pair in Chicago. Geez. And we have to go out tomorrow! We need school stuff! And Elihu has – school. He can’t leave the house without his glasses. Literally. So this is a major monkey wrench in the works. (Or a spanner, depending.) It looks bleak, but I try to keep it light. Some options, none great. But let’s not worry about it now. Dad will overnight the others soon, and we’ll do what we can here. Right?
Right. We read the locally-inspired tale of Rip Van Winkle and soon Elihu is asking me to turn the closet light on and stay with him. “Daddy always leaves right away” he says through sleepy eyes. How can I deny him? The dishes need doing before the morning, but I can’t leave. I rest my hand on his arm and his eyes flash open, but on seeing me still there, he sinks back into sleep. I wait a bit more, watching him sink, hearing his breath change… I get up from the bed and look at him lying there. I’d expected to be struck by how big he was getting, but instead, he still looked tiny to me tonite. A tiny little boy in a big bed. So much going on in that tiny little person too. So much. It’s so good to have him safe at home again.
I know there’s still a lot going on, much to do and problems to be solved. But I also know that in the end, ev’ry little ting’s gonna be alright.