First in Flight

 

Boy pretending to fly

“Why are we stopping here?”

I look at my son in the rearview mirror.  Mint chocolate chip ice cream is tracking a path down his chin, subtracting a good four years from his age. 

“I need milk and creamer,” I sigh.  It is the end of one of those weekends. The kind that wears on you like a long-sleeved t-shirt on a suddenly, unseasonably warm spring day.  And the weight of activity and obligation has knocked me flat, bothered and exhausted. 

“I’ll be so glad when you’re 10,” I tell him, slipping the car into park under the awning in front of the grocery store.  An eyebrow shoots up over his sweating cone.

“Why?” he asks.

“Because,” I say, “then I’ll be able to dole out some cash and have you go get creamer and milk.  It’ll be fantastic.”

The car (for once) is blissfully silent except for the sound of the ‘Fearless’ Ms. Swift..Hey Stephen, I could give you fifty reasons…And I’m almost finished psyching myself up for the quick in-and-out for my must-have morning crutch, when I hear:

“I think I can do it.”

The solemnity with which this line is delivered almost makes me laugh out loud.  I look back at him with an amused smile.  “You think so, huh?”

“Yeah.  I do.  Seriously.  I know where the milk is,” he says.  “I have to get the organic kind — 1 percent.  And I have to check the expiration date for the farthest one out.  Dad told me.  And the creamer, it’s just right there next to the milk, right?”

“Well yeah,” I say.  All of a sudden I feel like I’ve walked slam into a MOMENT…like the ones that used to come in frequent and ferocious waves when the kids were babies.  When ‘firsts’ crashed on top of each other at such a pace that it was hard to keep the shutter snapping fast enough to capture them all.

“Are you sure?  I mean, do you really think you can do it?” 

“Yeah, Mom. I know I can.”  (I’m ‘Mom’ now.  Just in the last two weeks.  It’s a moniker that makes me feel like I should be trading Rainbows and tank tops for Keds and popped-collar polos.)

“Well, OK.  Here’s some money.  Go straight in, get the stuff and come right back out.  If you’re in there more than 10 minutes, I’m going to come looking for you.”

“Got it,” he says.

As I watch him jog off towards the doors of the grocery store, already working the casual swagger of a much older and cooler boy, I fight back small swells of irrational panic. I mentally take in the parking lot.  The people coming and going.  Cars, trucks and vans that could hold something or someone suspect.  Finally, after a thorough casing of the joint, I reach an uneasy peace.

The child is not entering an enemy POW camp rife with hostile, apron-donning terrorists, I think.  You have a clear view of both entrances.  If anyone tries to hustle, shuffle or outright drag that baby out the door, you can just run them over with the car.  No problem.  You’ve got this.

“I hope Griffin is OK,” says Addison from the perfect and precious safety of her booster seat.  Her voice startles the absolute crap out of me.  My oldest child has been gone for six minutes and in my pscyho-Mommy obssessing, I’ve somehow managed to forget that she is even there.

“I’ve never seen anything like it.  Not in my whole life.  An 8-year-old boy going into the store all by himself.”  She sounds both awed and only slightly unsure that my next move might be to send her around the corner to McDonald’s to pick me up a Big Mac.

“I suppose, if he doesn’t come out in like, 15 hours, we’ll just have to go in and get him,” she says.  And that finally cracks my shell of low-grade anxiety, making me laugh.

“Actually,” I say turning to look at her, “I think we’ll give him two more minutes and then go in and fish him out.”  She seems almost as relieved as I am at the prospect.  Finally, a plan that makes sense. 

It’s been 11 minutes.  I’m just about to park for real, when I see him.  Running through the sliding doors, bag in hand, face flushed, and looking like he just scaled the summit of Everest.  Victory.  Growth.  Creamer. 

I am proud and surprised and inexplicably sad. This moment is small, but oh-so-big in its bittersweetness. And as I pull away from the store, Addison softly twangs a little tune she belted out in white cap and gown at her preschool graduation only 48 hours earlier:

1, 2, 3…like a bird I sing.
You’ve given me,
the most beautiful set of  wings. 
I’m so glad you’re here today,
Cause tomorrow I might have to go and fly away.
Fly away…fly away…

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: