I am watching my son walk away. We are in a baseball field and I can see his little legs in grey sweatpants peeking out of the red puffy winter coat he complains so much about. His steps are heavy and deliberate. Like mine. How many times has his father commented how heavy my feet land on the steps. Even when I was waitressing in the sushi bar..before the living together, the marriage and the kids, he knew my signature heavy, but quick thud on the stairs. He is walking away from an argument he had with his brother who is sitting on the grass in the growing distance between us, also watching his brother go.
I decided to keep the boys home because of the flu. S. was sick with a low fever the day before and M was just getting a runny nose and I thought I would be overcautious, because I usually am not. The only problem with them staying home is that this is one of the two days I have to myself, when they both usually have their needs filled with organized activities designed by professionals who receive paychecks. As I am in the midst of my own search for a paycheck, I was looking forward to my time alone to troll the network of job sites.
I prepared them and myself, by saying, “ If you stay home…I won’t be playing with you. I have a lot of work to do. I will be on my computer and you can not bother me.” I began the time with a warning..which then naturally needed to be tested.
After five minutes of work M says, “ Mom when are you going to be done, and play with me?”
“ I have a lot of work to do…it is still early..do you want me to take you to school?”
“Can we go to the playground?”
“ No, you are staying home because you have germs. We don’t go to the playground when we are sick and spread our diseases. Go play with your brother! And if you are healthy (it’s 9:00am still) perhaps we should go to school!”
“ I don’t want to go to school! I hate school!”
“ Stop it, you love school. You love playing with your friends.”
M then, leadenly stomps his way up the stairs to his room.
S wails…“But mom I want to play with M!”
“ Go upstairs.”
I went back to work typing…to whom it may concern, I am very excited by this position (please call me in for an interview…this 10-2 would work perfectly with my schedule).. I am well qualified for this position because..(I am so tired of watching the sands of my bank account steadily deplete without turning. I am so tired of the accusatory looks that tell me I am not pulling my weight as a bread winner, bread baker or bread toaster.)
M. comes downstairs again.
“ Mom it is nice outside. I want to go out. Let‘s go to the dirt pile.”
Both boys proceed to go outside shoeless and in their pajamas. The air is cold 55-60 degrees. The are happily throwing a Frisbee back and forth.
“ Get back in here both of you! You are home because you are sick! You can get dressed and then play out in front of the house.” I am the embodiment of the distracted, resentful mother. I can feel the flashback echoes of my mother. I can see myself as a child standing in the garage, head leaning against the steel grey storm door feeling the sting of wet and coldness through my violet nylon gloves. The door is locked. We have been knocking, my siblings and I. We wonder how long we will have to wait. How long had it been, since we were bundled and sent out to play? I can feel the familiar wave of injustice amplified by my childlike perceptions, and I soften.
“ Okay, just let me get dressed and I will take you to the dirt pile.”
The dirt pile is my sons’ second home. It is our usual late afternoon or early morning hot spot. It is their pyramid of Egypt, battleground encampment, dirt bomb armory, race track, sled hill, mountain, stage. It is a mound of loam. It sits on the edge of the local recreation center’s field and is replenished each Spring with the onset of baseball season. As it is October the pile is quite low, but there is a circular entrenchment just large enough for two boys to snugly fit. It looks as if it could have been dug out by two other ambitious children, but with all the time I have spent at this spot I have only on two occasions seen some one else’s kids take the hill as my sons do.
On this morning the dirt pile is quickly overlooked as M decides he wants to pretend he is playing baseball on the field. S, with the red Frisbee in hand chases after his brother insisting that they play. He is hoping to regain the spontaneous magic of throwing the Frisbee back and forth in front of our house, as the scowling pressure coming from the form inside the house has diffused. The red disc is no longer attractive to M though, as the game was more about gaining the attention of the woman who is still standing outside of their play, watching, not scowling, but still not engaging.
M stops watching his brother and lays down, spreads his body out, on the still green grass feeling the cold air and the sweet sun. I feel it too. The urge to lay in the grass…close my eyes, melt into the earth, and drink the sun as the grass might. But S is still walking. He is getting smaller in the distance and I must quickly lighten my step to catch him. Eventually, I do, with M gliding in easily beside me and then we race. We race to S and I scoop up the frisbee and wave it in the air as they both pursue me, laughing, with me, finally, laughing too.
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