I was totally going to write about something else today that I've been working on for awhile when this morning happened. And this morning was important because it was a...
Apparently, this year our local elementary school is sending the kids on two field trips--a small local one and a bigger, all day one. On Monday, my kindergartener had his little one--a trip to the local bowling alley for bumper bowling on "B" day. "B" day stems from alphabet-palooza--a scheme by which the kindergarten teachers overcome parents' dread of the upcoming summer months by assigning them a month's worth of alphabet outfits and snacks. We're only on letter "D," and, after rummaging through everything my five-year-old owns to locate all possible outfits with any remote link to the letter "E" (a T-shirt with ""Est." written on it, one with "Extreme" on it, and another with pictures of "exercise") for tomorrow, I am now ready for summer!
Today, however, was the second-grader's trip. The second and third grade were headed to a local movie theater to watch Disney's "Chimpanzee." I was ready to take this day in stride like any other day except that the big one announced to me a few weeks back that his class was going to the movies, and I *had* to come, just *had* to. I initially ignored this declaration and just figured he'd forget it. But then we had to return the permission slip with the money. As I was prying the slanting sides of the envelope open to allow admittance to the green half sheet of paper and five one-dollar bills borrowed from a neighbor because I only had a twenty and it was due the next day (of course), the big one peered around my arm and asked, "Mom, where's your check mark?"
"Huh?" I asked, feigning innocence and pausing in my wrestling match with the envelope (the envelope was winning, by the way, and I have the paper cut to prove it).
"Your check mark, Mom. The one that says you're going on the field trip with me."
"Oh." I paused. "Do you really need me to go?"
"YES." He wasn't loud or upset or angry. He was just very direct. He looked me straight in the eyes, and his gaze implored me.
Yes, I would have to go. Part of me was flattered at that moment. My baby boy still wanted me to go with him. I mean, really, how long can I expect that to last?
The other part of me groaned. I don't do animal movies. I must've liked "Bambi" as a child, and I know I got into "My Little Ponies." But those other movies? Forget it. Not "Black Beauty." Not "The Lion King." Not "Free Willy" or "My Friend Flicka." I don't even like "Benji." Much less real nature movies. Remember Annaud's "The Bear?" I hated him. My kids found "March of the Penguins." I made them turn it off. How was I going to make it through "Chimpanzee," especially in a movie theater filled with witnesses that I would need to see again in real life?
Add to that the fact that we occasionally have real problems at movies. We've gotten much better in recent years after time and effort devoted to the whole thing, but we have our issues.
Needless to say, I was not looking forward to it very much, particularly since I was driving out to Pittsburgh Mills, where I have never been before, and had to get there early. Directions have never been my strong point, and, since my accident in February 2011, I have been loathe to drive on limited access highways. My mother, who spent years as a home health care nurse and can tank through drifts in states of emergency, thinks I'm a little ridiculous. Luckily, though, MapQuest returned an alternate to the turnpike and with only one wrong turn, one point to merge, and just minor hyperventilation, I made it to the theater five minutes before the third reminder slip from the school told me we had to be there (the first two were friendly reminders. The third, not so much).
I don't do very well with other school moms on the whole. I actually do better with school dads. Not sure why that is. Most of the other school moms seem not real comfortable either as we linger around awaiting the arrival of our children. Surprisingly, I knew many of the moms and dads there today. It seemed they all had children who knew my other son. Their older children were all girls, and they were telling petrifying stories of their second- and third-grade daughters not wanting to actually sit with them during the movie. I spent a good fifteen minutes in the terror that I would need to weather this horrific nature movie by myself while pretending to be the good-natured, animal-loving, still-sitting mother that I most certainly am not.
I didn't need to worry though because, as the second- and third-grade children were funneled through the doors like the numbered ping-pong balls in the lottery selection machine, my big one caught my eye and started waving with almost maniacal fervor.
I am so lucky.
Brené Brown writes that we often feel as vulnerable feeling joy as we do feeling sorrow, and that was definitely me this morning. I felt so extremely, incredibly blessed that I kept waiting for somebody to wake me up or call me with bad news. Even writing this makes me so nervous that I've had to go up to check on the sleeping boys just to make sure they're still breathing.
The big one waved at me from the moment he came in until he was corralled by his teacher into the line that would pass by the snack tables where pre-prepared sodas, popcorn, and skittles packages waited to be shoved into small hands.
"Come here, Mom!" he first mouthed at me, then hissed, then hollered when I didn't join him in line fast enough.
"Parents don't get snacks," I said. "I'll wait right here." I moved over to the gap through which the snack-laden children were once again shepherded toward the movie theater. The big one took my hand as we walked past the empty concession stands, beside the posters for upcoming movies (he needed to shoot at all of the superheroes/villains--not an easy feat for someone holding fruit punch, a Happy-Meal-esque box of popcorn, and a single-sized skittle package), and around the corner to Theater 10.
Once inside, we were escorted by the classroom teacher up the theater steps to the first empty row. The teacher paused a moment in front of that empty row which backed a row of third-grade girls, glanced at the fifteen boys looking up expectantly at her, and moved them back one more row before shuttling them down the aisle of folding seats. I think she knew exactly how hard those boys could kick in making her decision.
I have only one comment about looking down that line of boys during the movie: wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, yeah!
The girls sitting to my right were strangely motionless. Maybe I just didn't notice their movements in comparison.
But it was wonderful. It wasn't just that I got to sit next to my son, that he grabbed my hand in the surprising parts, that he had to hold my ear when he was afraid that the adoptive daddy would die as well as the mommy, or that he rested his head on my arm throughout. It was that all the kids around seemed to like having a mom sitting with them. It was that no one cared if they all kept a running commentary throughout the movie (although both I and the big one's neighbor did tell him we could still hear even if he chose not to yell). It was recognizing that the big one's teacher has just absolutely the right temperament for dealing with my son. And it was that my son both knew me and accepted me just the way I was.
As I spent much of the second half of the movie in tears--as much as I hate nature movies, I have to say it was good--the big one didn't mind too much until the credits.
"Snap it out, Mom," he said, snapping his fingers a mosquito's breadth from my nose. "I mean, snap out of it."
"I'm not crying," I lied. "You can't even see me."
The big one sighed. "I know when you cry, Mom. Some girl things are not so good."
And so we funneled out. I expected to go home right away, but, no, the day was not over. There was lunch.
Most of the moms sat together, chatting less than comfortably. I was on my way to join them when the big one grabbed my hand.
"Over here, Mom," he directed, steering me to an empty table with attached swivel chairs.
We sat down, just the two of us, and I was so impressed by how he didn't even care if his friends were around. But that wasn't the end of it. A whole mess of boys just came and clustered around us.
There's something special about boys. I didn't need to eat. I didn't need to talk. I just needed to be there--and occasionally open food stuff that must have been packaged at Fort Knox. They were having a wonderful time giggling and working out ways to spin those chairs completely in circles (possible if you are sitting on the side toward the restaurants, cross your legs criss-cross-applesauce style, and have a friend to push you around). There were cries of delight as a construction vehicle drove through the mall to hang ceiling displays and giddy commotion when two moms took their toddlers on the merry-go-round.
It was simply a beautiful day that I couldn't quite believe was happening. As the big one was finally led away by his teacher, I kept expecting a lilac-colored puff of smoke to sweep them all away like a fairy godmother.
But it never happened, and so I found my own special gift today--a moment that's unlikely to come again and one I am likely to treasure for a very long time.