Every night at bedtime I go into the room Boy and Missy share. I fold clothes, toss toys into baskets, shove baskets under beds, and pick up two dozen or so stuffed animals off the floor and throw them back in their place at the end of Boy's bed.
Daniel's menagerie. A once treasured collection. Currently at least twice the size it was when I first wrote about it, lo' these many years ago.
Every night I pick 'em up. Every night he kicks them back on the floor.
Tonight I'd had enough.
"ENOUGH!" I say, "Is it time we got rid of the animals, Daniel? I'm sick of picking them up!"
"Yeah," he mutters.
"Yeah, what? You want me to get rid of them?"
"Fine. Good." I give one last tug on the sleeve I've been wrestling, before I toss the half-folded shirt unceremoniously into the closet. I can't fault my children for their clutter too harshly because I am no Neat Nelly myself. But, there are limits.
"Get rid of them......where?" he wonders.
"Throw them away where I never have to pick them up ever again. Ever." I pull a shin guard out from under a pile of books. This too is thrown carelessly into the closet. Somewhere on the second shelf if my aim is true. Which it is...at least half the time...
"Okay," he commits sullenly.
"Seriously. You're seriously okay with me throwing them away? Are you sure?"
"Yeah. Do it. Take Bobby too."
There's too much bravado in his voice. I pause in my search for a mate to the filthy Ben10 sock I've just fished out of an empty Playdough can, to give him a level don't-fuck-with-me kind of look.
"You want me to get rid of Bobby too?"
"I'm almost eight! Don't you think I'm too old for a Bobby?"
"No. I really don't. I'm just sick of picking up these stuffed animals off the floor. I never said anything about Bobby."
"I'm too old for cuddly animals. And Bobby too. Take 'em."
"Fine," I say through gritted teeth.
I sweep grandly out of the room, and return half a minute later with a large, plastic garbage bag into which I immediately start chucking the rejected toys. I feel sharp pangs of regret as I do it. Snowball, the gorgeously soft racoon that Grandma Gae had to special order. Snakey, from Disneyland last summer. Tucker, his Build-a-Bear dog for Christ's sake! I don't really want to throw all this stuff away! Stop me you idiot child! Stop me now!
But he doesn't. He helps. He drags a small, plush Wall-E, and an ugly purple and blue scorpion out from the far side of his bed, and throws them at me. It takes a second to feed the last animal--a long, green IKEA dragon--into the now full bag, but when I'm done, I look at him, and hold it out to him with a 'well? what's it gonna be?' arch of my eyebrow.
Bobby, tucked safely under his pillow, is the only soft, cuddly remnant of his babyhood left. He quickly grabs it, shoves it in the bag, then backs himself into the far corner of his bed. He pulls first his pillow, then his comforter over his chest. His eyes are wide. Wild. He licks his lips. They look pale and dry. I know he deeply, intensely, insanely regrets what he's done. But he won't look at me. And I won't help him out of this hole he's dug for himself. I'm just that mean.
I linger with the bag in my hands a few moments more. When he doesn't make a move for it, I drag it out into the hallway, and busy myself with cleaning up Missy's side of the room.
I don't know how long it takes. Not long. A minute? Maybe two? Amanda is babbling about something or other. I'm not really listening because my mind is full to bursting with the little farce Daniel and I have just acted out. I know he'll cave. He has to cave. Bobby is his fucking soul mate. His missing twin.
He'll cave. I just hope he gets on with it before it's time to turn out the lights.
It starts with a mumble.
All soft and breathy like, but I can hear it. Abruptly, the mumble stops. He's quiet for a few, steely seconds, then he looks me right in the eye and says, "Mom. I want Bobby."
Well all right then.
I found his Bobby. I tucked him in. Kissed him hard on the forehead, and told him he wasn't even close to too old for Bobby. And that he never, ever had to pretend to be again. Then I came into the kitchen and poured myself a very large glass of wine.
A little while ago, about 20 minutes after I'd said my last good-night, I heard the door to their bedroom open, followed by a very distinctive rustling in a certain plastic garbage bag still sitting in the hallway right outside their door. I haven't checked to see which of the animals he called back from exile, but I hope Snowball and Tucker made the cut.
|Not even close to too old.|