The last thing I saw was a weeping scorpion in a tie dye shirt.
“Don’t leave me.”
The first day of kindergarten was joyous. This sing along picnic was so so sad. It felt a little inside out that way. Leo at least wore his insides out.
The morning started with a grimace from Steve, telling me that our eight day of wind and rain had freed our boat from its mooring.
I squashed my inner elation. Steve was actually upset. And needed to deal with the marooned boat corpse on the same day that the IBM layoffs were being announced.
He got the call from his manager while I was at the computer, making eavesdropping the only logical choice. “I see.” “No” “No” “No.” My husband’s “never say more than needed to anyone in a position of authority left me with little information. Then, “while I have you on the phone I’d like to talk to you about. Blah ba di blah blah these three letters these other four letters.” IBM jargon…must mean he was “not effected” More IBM jargon. Instead of telling Steve which of his close collegues had been laid off he was instructed to proceed with business as usual and if he didn’t get a response to go ahead and “ping” that person’t manager and if the manager didn’t respond then he should get back in touch with the third line. (See I’ve picked up some jargon over the years.)
Some friends of course were “effected.”
I went out then, to do more stay at home mom things, like pick up gift cards for the teachers and supplies for the class party. Important items. Integral really.
Arriving at school early for the sing along Leo intercepted me. Sporting the field day tie dye (indoors due to biblical rains) and a scorpion face paint he struck a pose. That was the last happy moment.
The blueberry muffin that he had requested for our (indoor) picnic treat did not meet with the scorpion’s approval. “This is DISGUSTING”, he pronounced. Then raised his fist and smashed it down on the muffin. Two table mates quickly volunteered to take on the offensive muffin but the scorpion king would hear nothing of it. If he was not enjoying a muffin no one would.
I soldiered through the picnic agenda, reading aloud the book he had written. Called “the laugh” he showed me his story map with the problem noted by a lightening strike sign. What’s the problem? I asked. The bear won’t stop tickling the bird so he cant stop laughing. That sounds like a funny problem I told him. Just as I was reaching out to tickle Leo and try to bring him back from the edge I glimpsed his scowl and my hand retreated on its own.
His teacher had caught the muffin smack down and was raising an eyebrow at me. We have had an ongoing dialogue this year about Leo’s moods. I would describe him as emotional and hyper sensitive, she would describe him as easygoing, attentive, and a pleasure. I was always happy to hear that he was a great classroom citizen, yet I wanted her to know about the darker side of Leo…thinking ahead to a first grade placement with a potentially less skilled teacher. We had lucked onto the Treehouse team which I consider (ed) magical. An incredible blend of wet shoed, dirty handed exploration, tie dyed sing alongs, and story diagrams as the kids began to see themselves as writers, scientists and mathematicians. She saw it now, for the first time at this final gathering and gave me a long look.
I was elated. And saddened. The immaculate classroom Leo banging up against the shore with a hole in his hull. He is, after all, a real boy. And today a boy scorpion.
Next up was class gifts. He muttered his way through this without tears or yelling, but the shit really hit the fan during sing along. We gathered. he hung back. I tried to gently nudge him towards the horseshoe of happy kids and he squashed my hand trying to back further away.
The magical teacher approached.
“Its not a choice” she told him. So he went. He sobbed in front of the two classes and the 25 parents. Fists against eyes, green and black paint running in streaks down his cheeks. During the second verse of the gorgeous song about nature and community and all other good things I saw the source of the panic. A semi solo.
He stood with his back to the class mumbling. He was not alone, another two kids whispered with him, their small group missing any of the 10/12 girls who were belting out all of the words of the chorus with beaming butterfly faces.
Post verse he was a bit better, no longer hiding his face, going through some of the motions, then finally free, to melt into me. Next to us was a friend with her son. She turned to her kindergartener (for two more days) and told him she was going to visit her second grader. That morning on the ride to school I had asked Oliver if I could pop in to say hi to him when I was coming or going from leos picnic. :Don’t bother” he told me. I shared the story with the friend and Leo snuffled and dried his eyes. “He’s growing up.”
Next came the slideshow. Happy kindergarteners in shafts of sunlight hiking, exploring, investigating, singing. One of those pre-nostalgia moments where we can see what we will miss before it is gone. Wonderful faces. The final slide taken from afar had two classes worth of kids running up a hill, backs to the camera, climbing higher.
I gave him a squeeze, he gave me a smile.
It was time to leave him. A hug. Another hug. A third hug. Just one more hug mama. So one more. Then I am walking away and his arms are around me. “I wont let you go. You cant leave me.” Two other boys join in. Arms around Leo’s arms. We will help Leo make you stay. I peel off six arms. I imagine he will have their support. But he has left them behind, following me. Those two know to stay in the class room but he is down the hall. “one more hug” he calls. Weeping. “I’ll see you soon love”
I walk away.
Snippets of the day in my mind, the friend with the father in surgery, the friend headed to the funeral, the older brother who had multiple seizures, the stress fracture, the broken blueberry muffin, the rainy rain.
The last thing I see is the weeping scorpion in the tie dye shirt.
Not so grown up yet.