August 11, 2011
The phone rings, just as I’m trying to decide if I still care enough about the boys of Entourage to see the last season through. My husband fumbles for the remote and grumpily comments, “Who the hell would call us at 10:30 on a Friday night?”, and I just stare at him, because I know exactly who’s attempting to connect with us. I check out the caller ID just to be sure, and it is indeed my mom. I look up at Jeff and say “It’s Grandma”, and I can see for just a fleeting moment he’s forgotten that Justin’s at her house for the night, or at least, that had been the plan. I press “talk”, which is the last thing I want to do at the moment, and listen as my mother tells me my son has literally packed his bags, and clearly wants to leave. She assures me she’ll keep trying, but I know the jig is up. In a few minutes he’ll be yawning as grandma’s car hugs the coast, and he and his new Toy Story suitcase bought specifically for this occasion will make their way home together.
It would appear my son’s first sleepover in six years will end before Letterman.
I have to admit, my first reaction upon returning the receiver to its precarious perch on our coffee table is intense disappointment, infused with a smattering of guilt. Justin has made so much global progress over the last year-and-a-half that I truly thought this staple of childhood, or more accurately, this staple of my childhood, would be available to him now. Over the past year he has learned to sleep through the night (most of the time), and traded temper tantrums for acquiescence (again, most of the time). Due to maturity, and mostly his own desire, the world at large has finally seen the personality I always knew existed at his very core- a happy, joyful temperament. I truly thought he was ready for this. His father thought he was ready for this. His grandma and her partner went to great lengths to ensure this night would work.
But unfortunately nature called, and my son answered. Apparently, upon deeper examination, even a bed with his own spaceship sleeping bag and extra-soft pillow on it is still not his own bed.
For a few moments I am mired in regret, wondering if we missed the window by having him home every night since he was two. Our collective decision wasn’t from a lack of desire to see him slumber elsewhere, trust me. During what I lovingly refer to as the “coma years”, I would have delighted in shipping him off for an evening (or three), but we just couldn’t inflict that particular torture on anyone, and quite frankly, there weren’t a great many offers either. His inability to make it through the night, coupled with his little brother’s regression and subsequent plunge into his own heavy-duty therapy years, forced us to put vacations, or even nights at grandma’s, somewhat permanently on the back burner. We were in survival mode. Pleasure seemed an elusive, unreachable link to our past.
As quickly as these negative thoughts enter my consciousness I banish them back to the dark recesses of my mind, where other thoughts of similar nature reside but don’t see the light of day nearly as often as they used to. I remind myself that our family has done the best we could , given both the circumstances, and the resources, available to us at the time. I tell myself that one aborted sleepover does not mean the next decade (or decades) will require my son to snore solely in his own bedroom. Our impending trips to Hershey Park and Disney are not necessarily defunct, just because my son couldn’t make it in another locale until midnight. I chastise myself to chill out, as I sometimes need to do, because life here is much more manageable, and the future is still ripe with possibility.
I smile, because for years I didn’t feel I had much of a choice in how I perceived the daily events of our life together. Now, thankfully, I feel I do.
What seems like hours later, but in reality is only the length of another episode of our selected HBO drama, I hear the soft slam of a car door on our otherwise silent street. I listen to feet padding quietly up to our door, and Jeff opens it, allowing Justin reentrance to his own domain. I slide from the couch to my knees on soft, yielding carpet, and my boy sees me, eyelids heavy with fatigue, the last remnants of a yawn twisting his face. Justin drops his pillow, and shuffles my way. He drapes his arms over my shoulder, relaxes his lithe form, and literally slumps into my body. I gently ease him down to the floor so we can return him to his discarded pajamas, and my husband bears the weight of him back to his own room. I quickly hug my mom, and head upstairs with sleeping paraphernalia in tow. I make it just in time to see his sleepy but brilliant smile flash briefly, his eyes watching me gleefully as I unfurl his colorful comfort onto his familiar mattress. He snuggles in, and pushes my hand away as I gift him the quickest of kisses. I carefully make my way out of darkness, and into the light.
And it occurs to me, even with these small, still frequent setbacks, this family is finally, and I hope firmly, entrenched in the light.