My Little Guy
When my son was in 8th grade he was cast as Danny Zuko…which meant a lot to this mama (who was a tween in 1978). I saw Grease at least three times in the theater, which was unheard of back then. Little Neck Movie Theater on Northern Boulevard in Queens. The floor was sticky, it smelled like rancid popcorn, and it played two of my all time favorite movies. Grease and Meatballs (1979). I did not swoon over John Travolta, but I majorly crushed on Chris Makepeace. I have always been more of a nerd-loving kind of girl.
The director did not mind that our kid was a foot shorter than all of the other T-Birds, she brought out the best in him. He had confidence and swag and he was owning it. She was this little bit of sass who reminded me of my bestie from High School, tiny and on fire. She could keep command of a bunch of horny squirrelly kids like no other. They were hand jiving and making greased lightning…it was bliss. She was also mighty pregnant and it seems that at one point during the production I joked with her that I would happily babysit her kid when mine were grown…then I forgot I ever said it. She didn’t.
Five years ago I got an email, hey Kat, do you remember mentioning babysitting for us… well he starts school in September, can you take the mornings before school? My youngest was a senior in high school. Why not.
You never really plan on falling in love, sometimes it just happens. I have written about falling in love with many men, which was mostly a joke (except for my husband and son of course) but with my little guy…it was just a gradual ever-growing love. We were total buds. He was so shy and quiet at first, sitting on my lap, reading Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Dr. Seuss time and time again. He told me everything I needed to know with his big brown eyes and electric smile. Gradually we had inside jokes…just a glance between us would result in hysterical laughter. We walked to school backwards, we held hands, we raced up the block, took short cuts through neighbors yards, we bonded. He began to know my reading rhythms, looking at me just before I would give a completely crazy delivery of a line… getting so excited with anticipation that he would be out of control laughing before the words even came out. We got each other.
Kids grow up and passions change… my kids’ old Duplos, Legos, Toy Story toys, and then finally the Star Wars guys and space ships came out. There was less interaction but always connection. We sat together, he played, I rubbed his back. Sometimes I would do something silly and get the reward of a side glance and a smile, then a few minutes later he was on my lap for a cuddle. Almost my height, the cuddles became more like body slams, but I was used to it, my son still sits on my lap at 24. I loved cuddle days. This fall I realized this was the last year with my little guy, next year he would go to the middle school where his mom teaches, they would no longer need me.
I am very comfortable with life changes, time goes on. I deal with big stuff gradually, mourning slowly, so I am not hit too hard. These would be my last crisp fall morning walks to school, the last Halloween, the last elementary school play. This year he picked out a Christmas gift for me himself. “Kat needs this” he said to his mom, a wooden sculpture “Kissing Machine”. Perfection, maybe he realized we were doing lasts too. We would finish up the year and it would all be good. He would move on, we were forever buds, and we still had time…until we didn’t.
Last night I saw a post from my little guy’s mom. He is glowing, so proud…smiling eyes and exploding smile, standing in front of a graduation sign on his lawn. He is so different. How did he grow so much in just three months? I didn’t get to walk him to school this spring, we did not “walk the wall” and he did not jump into my arms, we did not get ice cream, or giggle at the crossing guard who reminds us of the bird from Go Dog Go. We didn’t have any more cuddles, or read any more books. We didn’t dance like Peanuts characters, bobbing our heads, bouncing from foot to foot. We didn’t even say goodbye.
Seeing that picture of him, I cried and cried. I knew I missed him terribly but had no idea how much. It is crazy to see how fast the world moves on. Stuck inside, we are still growing, changing, morphing into our next selves. He looks so happy, so confident, and he is owning it…and that is just as it should be.