“Daddy, I want a baseball bat shirt, ” Owen tells Scott, as he is getting ready for bed.
“You have a Yankee shirt, buddy. You wore it today, ” Scott replies, helping Owen tug on the pants to his Batman pajamas.
“No, a bat shirt,” Owen persists.
I hear them from the other room and call in to Scott that I think he means a jersey, like the ones worn by the players he saw at the game today. On our walk back to the car from the stadium, Owen had declared, “When I am a big, big boy I play baseball on ‘dis team, here.”
Scott pulls Owen’s pajama shirt on, careful to ensure that the black cape affixed with velcro remains on Batman’s back, and asks “Do you mean a jersey? Like the players wore?”
“Yessss!” Owen exclaims, holding out the “s” with his enthusiasm, though is sounds more like “Yethhhhsss”, clearly thrilled that his message has gotten through.
And more messages are getting through every day. From both sides. We understand more from him, he understands more from us. And it is wonderful and enlightening. And every single day I find myself eyes-widened, repeating some phrase he has just uttered to the person who has served as witness to it right there beside me. At times it is Scott, or our beloved babysitter, or one of Owen’s therapists. It is a familiar expression for me now, eyebrows raised in happy shock, the kind of thing that I hope does bring me wrinkles as a result of skin-stretching overuse.
I have always loved my boy. I have always wanted to take care of him – to protect him and do whatever it was that I could to help him, to make sure he was getting what he needed – at first to survive and then to thrive. I have always felt connected to him. Whether it’s due purely to maternal instinct, or how affectionate and cuddly he is, or how much we are alike – it being agreed upon long ago that our careful, introverted, thoughtful Parker is very much her father, and that Owen – extroverted, impetuous, impish to the core – is so much like me, I don’t know. But it doesn’t really matter why, does it? We don’t question why we feel connected to our children – only the ways that we don’t.
I have always loved my boy. But I have not always known him.
And that is hard to admit. And likely hard for others to comprehend, to relate to.
But it is my sad, honest, raw truth.
I have always known Parker. Every cell in her petite little body is familiar to me. I can tell you how she will react in any given situation, how to calm her down and how to rile her up. I can tell you which shirt she would choose to wear in a fashion lineup. I can tell you when she needs to be left alone and when she needs to be cuddled. I know her real “hurt cry” from her fake attention-seeking cry. I know the things that fill her with pride and those that deflate her confidence like the proverbial helium-filled balloon whose end has been released. I know the point to which I can push her to try something new in order to show her she is more capable than she allows herself to believe, and when not to push, to allow her to hold back, to wait it out until she is more comfortable.
When Owen announced his larger-than-life intention to play baseball for the Yankees when he grew up, I asked Parker what she wanted to be.
“I want to work at the stadium. In an office.” Practical, sensible. Scott’s daughter to the core. Scott and I smiled at each other over our children’s bobbing heads.
She has always been an open book to me, while he has been something more akin to those faux leather-bound tomes found in fancy libraries in historical homes we have visited from time to time. If you pull one off the shelf – these books with titles like The Call of the Wild or Anna Karenina or Great Expectations – and you attempt to thumb through them, you will find your thumbs useless, unable to budge the sealed pages. What should be familiar – you know these books, they look familiar to you, you should be able to read what’s between the covers of these classics you hold in your hand – you are somehow no longer privy to.
Owen has been a closed book – though he has a cover I recognize and can maintain and keep clean and take for careful restoration when needed. I can admire what is before me, what I hold in my hands. I can marvel at what I am sure is something wonderful inside, even if I have not yet been granted access. But I do not know for sure what is at its core. At his core.
Until this summer when something inside him cracked open. Until something clicked, and opened, and began to blossom before us all.
And I have no idea why or how or when exactly this happened. And I’m honestly not even sure if I care.
Because some things should not be analyzed – only enjoyed. Sometimes You read The Age of Innocence to discover themes, to analyze the imagery within – and sometimes it’s purely to allow yourself to get lost in the gorgeous and well-told story as it unfolds, to soak in all of the wonderful language, the beauty of the words kept between the protective covers of its now-cracked binding.
I am putting aside my typical over-analyzing, questioning self for now. I am enjoying the open book my boy is becoming, even if he is just sharing this new narrative of his on a page-by-page basis. It is a cliffhanger, and I am hooked on every word.
Great Expectations indeed.
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