We spent this past weekend together, just two of us, while your other mom and your big brother headed off for an out-of-town soccer tournament. I haven’t spent this much one-on-one time with you since you were an infant (that time when Rachel and Rowan headed out on that West Coast vacation ahead of us and I hung out with baby you and painted your brother’s room while you napped BECAUSE BEING LEFT ON MY OWN TO PAINT A ROOM IS VACATION TO ME DAMMIT). And, frankly, we were long overdue (for the one-on-one time, not painting, although I bet that if I had suggested to you that we get out some rollers and slap some paint on a wall or two, you would’ve been completely game).
Anyway. I was very much looking forward to spending the weekend with you, but I have to admit I was just slightly concerned that maybe you wouldn’t feel the same way. After all, for so long it seems as though I’ve existed in Rachel’s shadow when it comes to you. And while your absolute and passionate preference for her seems to have faded, vestiges of it remain: “Is Rachel putting me to bed tonight?” you’ll often ask, hopefully, although by the time we cuddle up in bed on my evenings with you, you’re completely content to read and to cuddle with me. Nothing I can’t cope with emotionally, but it did occur to me that maybe you would balk or — possibly worse — be indifferent at the thought of just the two of us all weekend.
I mean, you’re not the most sentimental kid: unlike your brother, you seem not to have inherited the Goldberg penchant for getting weepy at comings and goings, for tearing up at significant emotional events and commercials. When I walk you to school, your brother is the one who turns around for extra hugs at the schoolyard gate, while you tend to march happily into the playground without a backward glance. “I love you,” I’ll call. “Have a great day, Isaac!”
“Yeah yeah,” you’ll say.
And then, when I collect to you on Thursday after school, at the beginning of our solo weekend adventure, you handed me a card. On the front, you’d written my name (OK, you’d written “SHEZIN,” but I’ll take it) surrounded by Xs and Os. Underneath my name, you had drawn a heart. And inside the card, you’d drawn a picture of you and me, holding hands, inside another heart.
And it’s a good thing that I had these two extra hearts, because the one inside my chest nearly exploded just then.
We had a fabulous weekend. We had tickle fights. You spent a happy hour or so sorting out the international coins in my coin jar. We went out for sushi and you ate flying fish roe and an entire hand roll and copious quantities of wonton soup. We saw How to Train Your Dragon II. We made muffins and I remembered to breathe as you measured all the ingredients and dumped them into the Cuisinart. You found the discarded metal brackets that used to hold up the old Venetian blinds in my office — I nearly said no when you asked if you could have them (another mess, more chaos, bits of metal scattered throughout the house), and then remembered that I’m trying to say yes more, and two hours later you had created several found-object sculptures with the brackets, much electrical tape, and household string. On Saturday morning, inspired by said sculptures, I dusted off your other mother’s childhood Meccano set — right up your alley with its zillion tiny metal pieces, each in its own place in its Styrofoam tray — and you got right to work, building a bridge. We never left the house that day but instead worked in companionable near-silence, you screwing together metal brackets and me puttering about, playing guitar, doing bits of work and occasionally putting some food in front of you to feed that miraculous, ridiculous little brain.
Your brain: it’s nuts. I’ve taken to jotting down snippets of conversations we have before you go to sleep. You’ve got a definite penchant for the gory and the macabre. We’ll be lying there, all cuddly in the dark, and then you’ll turn over and say something like, “Mama? Is it possible to die while standing?” or, “Mama? What if you’re dead do you just see clear?” or, “Mama? Why would you tie someone to a train?” or, “You know, I don’t really like bedtime. I always wish it was more … explosive. You know, like if you got a little bomb every night.”
Despite (maybe because of?) your fascination with the grotesque, you’re such a happy kid. After a few weeks of practice, you can now do the splits, a fact that you share with everyone, dropping — boom! — suddenly down in the schoolyard, in the parking lot, in the living room, so that people marvel at your flexibility. Maybe you’ll take up figure skating, marrying your bendy limbs with your love of the ice. You’re joined at the hip with your best friend, who joined us for a sleepover Saturday night. When the two of you are together, it’s as though you work on one brain: the two of you remind me of those toddler twins on the Internet who have their own language. You are still an inveterate magpie, snitching shiny things from my desk, my dresser. You have cleared out everything from your bedroom closet and created a lounge/lab, where you hang on your own or with your friends. You love Minecraft and being read to, maple syrup on your oatmeal. And while you have, mercifully, mostly given up the habit of climbing into our bed at 4 AM, you still arrive most mornings by seven to snuggle up and say hello. Usually, you walk around to Rachel’s side of the bed, but more and more often, you climb right into the middle of us and whisper, “Is it a family day? And can we have French toast?”
Lately, I’ve been missing, longing for, the baby version of you, trying to remember the weight of you on my hip, curled next to me in bed those hazy newborn days. There’s no trace of that baby left in those long, skinny limbs of yours — sometime in the last year or so, I realized that you no longer suck your thumb. Your once indispensable security blanket is now utterly optional. But that’s OK: there’s so much more joy in spending the weekend with you now than there was six years ago, even if I did get the satisfaction of painting a room on my own.
Happy seventh birthday, Isaac. You’re the bomb.