I will admit it. I’ve completely lost it here and there over the years with you. There were those temper tantrums at Stop & Shop in the cereal aisle because I wouldn’t buy the Pop-Tarts you wanted, the ones with frosting and sprinkles. Or that time you said some girl kicked your new soccer ball across the road into the weeds, but then later confessed it was you. Prickles, your little stuffed hedgehog, ended up on the roof of Rosary Hall once because you and Dan were seeing how high you could throw him in the air. There were a few Sundays when you whined one too many times about studying flash cards in the car or whispered too loudly at church during the Gloria Patri. And there was that time you brought home a progress report that said you had five missing assignments and that you were failing Language Arts.
Once, you spilled milk all over the envelope from my new employer, “What I Need to Know About Harvard Pilgrim.” And your Little League pictures with the fake Fenway backdrop were ruined. Do you need a sippy cup? You’re eight but you can’t get your elbows out of the way? You desperately wiped milk blobs off my cell phone and threw paper towels on the puddle—That’s not how you clean it, you need a sponge! You didn’t know how to say sorry and I didn’t know how to stop.
That night, I remember the artichokes were undercooked and the garlic chicken was too sweet. I pushed you away, wiped the table myself, and cleaned the floor with a Swifter because that was all the mop I could handle. After dinner, we forgave each other. We always did. We probably played Legos on the rug.
You gave me a Mother’s Day card today that didn’t have the usual Garfield or Snoopy on it. It shows a woman dropping her daughter off at college, and the mom is saying as she drives away, “Crap! I forgot to potty train her!” Inside, it reads, “Relax! You’ll cover everything. Probably.” And you signed it “Love, Duncan.”
I’m filling out paperwork for you to attend high school in the fall—and I’m freaking out a little bit. You’re on your way to the grand age of 14 and I realize you’ll be driving in a year and a half. I can feel it’s a new season. It’s spring, the buds are opening on the arms of the trees. It’s time for the sugar ants to come out. When we lived in that little cabin on the Piscataquog, you used to help me by stomping on the creepiest crawlers with your Spiderman sneakers. It was something you took seriously—a privilege—and those were your most powerful shoes. Navy, size 3, with Velcro straps. Those darn little shoes lit up every time you ran across the room.