4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.
I want to remember this.
Today I picked up Jasper at the end of school, and he had that face. It was the classic chokey-voice face, the quiver chin, patchy-cheek face that I’ve worn my whole life in times of frustration and disappointment.
Popping the minivan door open, his awesome teacher handed him off to me with her infectious smile and she said, “I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. The good news is that Jasper’s going to read aloud in assembly a wonderful story he wrote about going to see a movie with your whole family! The bad news is that… well, he lost his tooth. And then we lost it. For real.”
And as Jasper climbed into the car he started to cry. The cars piled up behind me and I was digesting so much information. The last time someone seriously said they had good news and bad news, I was in college and the bad news was that my best friend’s father had died of a heart attack that morning right across the street from my house. The good news was that my father had had a stroke in the bathroom at our house at the same time, but he was still alive. That’s how my family delivered good news/bad news. As this flashback rolled through my head, I hit the button for the slider door on the minivan, checked Jasper out in the rearview mirror, and continued through the pickup loop.
It broke my heart. As the tears rolled down his face, I offered to pull over and look in his classroom for the tooth. He initially said no. After holding in his tears all afternoon at school, I imagine he was exhausted at the thought of going back inside. I talked, walking him through the tooth-search best case scenario and worst case scenario, either one involving treasure from the tooth fairy. I’ll admit, I felt certain I could find it. He acquiesced.
We re-looped the pick-up loop, parked in front and walked into the school. I was sweaty and wearing workout gear. Purple spandex bottoms, a fuchsia Under Armour sports tank and orange spandex zip-up with black Hunter boots. I looked like a second-rate superheroine, except not so much with the muscle or superheroine bosoms.
And before I knew it I found myself facing a classroom filled with after-care kids and Jasper’s teachers. POW! I proceeded to crawl around the floor, my spandexed rump in the air, picking through marker bins and scissor jars, pulling up kick boards along the bottom edge of furniture, running my hands along the edge of his circle-time rug.
All this of course, because I’m a mother who can fix things, and I’m a mother who can find things. And more than anything, the possibility that a part of my son’s body, no matter how small, yellow and gnarly, was gone from me forever, well, that was enough to almost, for a second, if you looked carefully and listened, give me the chokey voice and quiver chin, too.
In the end, we didn’t find it. And we walked back through the building to the car, holding hands, down one tooth. There had been a power outage in the lobby and it was incredibly dark with people swinging flashlights, carrying ladders, rolling out extension cords, like the scene right after the apocalypse. As we opened the front door and stepped out into the bright sunlight it felt like we’d survived something important.
Jasper hopped back in the minivan and chattered on about his day. His clouds had lifted. For the most part, he was ready to move on.
But I’ll be honest. I was still a little sad. I couldn’t get over the fact that I couldn’t get his tooth back. I didn’t fix this incidental hurt. I couldn’t find something. And now, it was lost.
Most poignant to me, I realized that the days of superhero me, where my kids believe I can fix things and make the world a better place, these days are quickly slipping away, lost under the circle-time carpet or in a bin of school crayons, misplaced on the playground or rolling around in the bottom of a boot.
Wonder Woman has left the building.