cafe mama

finding magic every day

a swiftly tilting boy . december 04 . 2007

everett at the art museum
When I met Everett on his bus today, he was in socks.

"Where are your shoes?" I asked, and saw that it was bad. He was almost crying. "I don't know! I don't know if I have them! They stole them!"

I lifted him down from the last step and carried him across the wet, wet walk, up our stairs to the porch. "Do you know what I am telling them I am going to do? I am going to blow up the school!"

Oh my.

Last Monday, the bus driver was stunningly late, and must have come just as I was running into the house to ask Jonathan to call, call the school, or someone, to find an answer. I wanted him to just take care of it; I had work, work, work, I would never be done. I could not get on Tri-Met, I could not make this better. Everett stayed home that day, and every day after that, the driver was late, we waited on the porch for 20, 30 minutes so as not to miss him and make things worse. But they just kept getting worse.

the alphabet everett wrote
That first day he was back to school, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, he was getting a battery of tests and I do not know if it was the tests, the bus, too much time off school, a little switch in his brain that got flipped but he was terrible, awful. He came home every day with three, four, five "incident reports." These are the tales of the worst behaviors that must be filled out in triplicate -- really, three copies, or maybe more -- and one sent home with Everett, another copy mailed "To the Parents of," another copy in his permanent record, maybe one filed with the district. They are scribbled and sometimes ungrammatical, they have words on them that I see when I pass yet another stack of papers, "kicking staff" "screaming" "throwing things" "tearing up the classroom" ("really, he tore it up!" said one of them who called me, explaining how they'd let him clean it up the next day, wondering if he was like this at home) "saying I hate you." I want to look away, throw the lot in the recycling, burn them maybe. I imagine myself as if in a movie, tilting the paper this way and that until my fingers are hot and all is ash but a rounded corner.

But copies of these reports are everywhere, like tarantulas in a particularly frightening movie I saw when I was five. I shouldn't have watched the movie. I shouldn't be looking at those words all day.

Someone suggests A Wrinkle in Time and that very night I look up on his shelf, there are all L'Engle's best children's books, I bought them before I even was pregnant. When he finally falls asleep, exhausted from his great and powerful anger, at first I continue reading aloud and then I read to myself, chewing up the words and swallowing them and they fill me up, cold, then warm, and I feel comforted. I remember reading this book -- probably for the second or third time -- when I was a teenager, just older than Meg, and thinking that this was the sort of mom I wanted to be. I remember her stews cooked in her lab; I remember how she is beautiful and smart and a redhead; I remember how she sees each of her children so clearly for what is best about them and does not ever get angry at them for their riveting faults and their explosive brilliance. She does not even mind that her twin boys are normal. I remember Charles Wallace, and though I do not expect Truman to become him, I wonder how deep he sees into each of us.

me, everett, toledo
Though I am trying I am exhausted and angry each night, no one will sleep, everyone needs me and I have so much to do. I stop hoping for a good day and instead only remember to tell him, over and over again, that I love him. I am up late and I am looking through my photos and I come upon this one, my throat hurts more than it did a few hours ago all at once. I am breastfeeding Everett in Toledo, Spain, I am so young and pretty and hopeful. All of the years come crashing back to me and I can see moments I've captured on film, I do not have to look through the photostream anymore, I remember Everett crawling, Everett at Christmas, five years in a row, Everett the weekend he had the flu and I had to work all night, him next to my laptop as I entered numbers in a spreadsheet, that next day I was fired (!) and I was so happy, it was him I wanted to be with. I remember Everett sitting on my lap as I sewed my wedding dress. I remember Everett wearing a tie to church, Everett frantic when I was about to give birth to Truman, Everett just last night making Monroe laugh for the first time as I gave him "soft looks" (so sayeth the developmental pediatrician, who I think is wonderful and who challenges me, but I didn't even have to try, all I could do was look at him with exactly all the love I'm supposed to feel).

How can he be so wonderful and terrible all at one time? What did this to him? It was me, it was not me, it was them, it was not them. It was everything and nothing at once and he shifts back and forth from the child I always expected; imaginative and soul-eyed and silly and so, so smart; to something possessed with a deep and frantic anger; he shifts just like a 10-year-old girl in a book slipping through a tesser, through a wrinkle in space. How will we get him to stop tilting so swiftly? I do not know, so I go again to his bed and put my hands upon him, I kiss him in his sleep and I wait for an answer that does not come. I know that my gift is love, not anger, I try to remember that and it is hard.

paying the bills

read my previous post . grateful, un-grateful . november 22 . 2007