There is an episode of Little Bill that Little Boy K and I used to watch together. In this episode, one of Little Bill’s favorite teachers is moving to Hawaii and Little Bill struggles with how much he will miss her. Before she moves away, she reminds Little Bill that however far apart they may be, he can look out his window and know that they are looking at the same sun, the same moon and the same stars. “Same sun, same moon, same stars” became code for Little Boy K and I – our way of saying that we are always together, even when we are apart.
Beginning at the age of three, Little Boy K has had to learn how to deal with separation. One night, twice a month and sometimes longer over the summer and during holidays. When it all began, I told myself that he would be fine with it, that this is the life he would know and he would be accustomed to and would never expect anything different. It hasn’t turned out that way. Every visit is a struggle.
I held his soft cheeks between my palms and kissed the freckled bridge of his nose. As I hugged him and our cheeks touched, I felt the warmth of one of his tears converging with mine. It’s a colossal effort to hold onto my tears until he boards the plane, and some days, like this one, it is too much and I fail and they come early and then I am ashamed because I want to be stronger for him.
“I love you so so much.”
“I love you so so much too.”
Little Boy K turns his attention to the stroller at my side. He kisses Baby S on the cheek and whispers something in his ear. I can’t hear what he said and that is the way it should be. Their words, their love, their secrets.
I reach out for one more hug and squeeze his little body tight, stealing a quick sniff of his hair, his little boy smell.
“How many nights does it have to be?”
“Nine.” I mutter. Nine.
I know this is the “right” thing. I know that it is best that he have as many people in his life who love him as possible. But it’s something that I don’t want to do, that he doesn’t want to do. These visits have been his first lesson that sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do because in the end, we hope, it will lead to a good result, that someday he will look forward to these trips when he has had the chance to develop the relationship more, although he may not understand it now or anytime soon. And he has to learn it and live it way more often than someone his age should and it’s hard on us all.
We’ve made it through longer but that doesn’t make it any easier this time.
I pull the stroller close to me and Baby S and I watch as he walks with the flight attendant down the tunnel towards the plane. I keep my eyes on him as I know he will turn around and look back at us.
And he does. He blows us a kiss. I return it, seeing his full eyes.
He turns back again right before he boards the plane and waves one more time, his lips trembling and the corners twitching as they do when he is working really hard to keep it together.
Baby S and I watch the plane through the window until all the passengers have boarded.
When the tunnel starts to pull away from the plane, it jumps and my heart jumps. I am overwhelmed with the urge to call out and stop this whole process. A scenario plays out in my head in a heartbeat where I pull him off the plane and tell him he doesn’t have to go this time, that we will think of something. And then it dissipates with the knowledge that this is just the way it has to be.
I know very little of what the next nine days will be like for him. I know what they will be like for me.
I know that I will go home and make up his bed and shut his bedroom door and it will stay that way until he returns.
I know that I won’t sleep peacefully when one of my birds is missing from the nest.
I know that I will stay awake late reading, trying to distract myself with someone else’s story, in an attempt to wear myself out and bring sleep into my life.
I know that I will wake with a guilty start once I finally do drift off and remember in the night that he isn’t twenty feet away, safely sleeping with Spidey and Iron Man.
I know that when I wake in the morning, my ears will miss the sound of his footsteps pounding down the hallway to the living room to watch his morning cartoons.
I know that I will spend most of the night looking at the reflection of the moon shining through my bedroom window.
Same sun, same moon, same stars.
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