An Awkward Dance
Yesterday I saw my youngest son for the first time in five weeks. He wasn’t away at camp or on vacation, and he still lived just a mere 7 miles away with his dad. But for reasons I won’t go into here, he didn’t want to see me or any of us who lived in the little house in which he used to reside. So it came as a surprise when he called wanting to attend his big brother’s play with me.
Just before I left to pick him up I was nervous as a middle-schooler going to her first dance, a combination of giddiness and anxiety crashed around in my stomach. He came out to the car hiding under his bangs which were down to below his nose. The mom in me wanted to shout, “Ever heard of a hair cut??” But the middle- schooler just wanted him to like me. So I put on a cheery smile and tousled that long hair and said, “Hey stranger! I am so glad to see you.” He blew the hair out of his face but avoided my gaze. Staring straight out the front window of the car smiling awkwardly as if he cut out a picture of the Cheshire Cat’s grin and pasted it on his face he answered, “Yeah.”
Luckily the drive to the theater where the play was being performed was a short 60 seconds, but the silence that loomed in the car made it feel like 60 years. So much to say, and yet I was so unsure of how, when, or even if I SHOULD say it. As we approached the school, I mustered a few comments about someone taking my secret parking spot. Perhaps I tried too hard…perhaps it was too cheery, but I got a multi-word response–progress.
Sitting down in the auditorium, I glanced up at the clock and realized that we had 30 minutes until the show started. Thirty minutes—an eternity with the way things were going. Still in middle school mode, my palms sweat and I searched for something “cool” to say–some area of conversation that we could find common ground, but my mind was blank. No. Not really blank. It was filled with all the things I wanted to say, needed to say, wanted him to hear, needed him to hear, and all of that was too loud and drowned out any clear thinking.
I was sweaty. I was mad at myself. I felt like a fool. I mustered a “How’s work?” question. He turned toward me, still not meeting my eyes, but answered in a short paragraph. Once again the silence loomed over us and I began to chastise myself. Then…well then Mark arrived, and well, I can only describe his appearance as a gift from the Universe.
Mark and his wife are long time friends. We are tied together by the theatre we did as children and bonded even more when our children began to do theatre as well. He is one of those guys that’s quick with a joke and definitely a people person, a really big kid at heart. I guess you could say that another middle-schooler had arrived. He plopped down behind us and immediately said to Gannan, “Ever heard of a hair cut?” I winced at the comment. But to my surprise Gannan lit up. He laughed, looking Mark right in the eye.
We did the formalities of “How are you.” And “Good to hear.” And then Mark launched into a discussion of Xbox with Gannan.
“Do you play Call of Duty?” He asked. Once again, Gannan flashed his infectious smile turned and said with gusto, “Yeah!” For the next 20 minutes Mark and Gannan discussed the ins and outs of the games, the tricks they learned and the levels they had reached. I immediately relaxed and sat back to watch the dance between a good friend and my son that seemed so natural. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing “Gannan.” I mean my “Gannan” talk animatedly about games and life and his summer. My boy was sitting next to me again, and even if it was someone else who brought it out of him, it gave me hope that he hadn’t disappeared entirely due to the strife and stress and rebellion of the past year.
After the show, I took Gannan to lunch. Before ordering, I used the quiet face to face time to remind Gannan that I loved him no matter what took place between us. I reiterated that despite all that went on in the past year, we held out hope that someday we’d love to work it out so he could come and live with us on an every other week basis. (A request he had made months before.) But most importantly I told him that I knew he was hurting. That word unlocked the vault like brain of my teenager. Upon saying the word “hurting,” it was then that he finally looked me straight in the eye. I held my breath and waited. He swallowed and then tentatively nodded all the while his eyes on mine. I forced back tears of regret and emptiness and that horrible “missing him” feeling that was always with me. I struggled once more with being the mom and launching in to all they ways we could “fix” the problem; a problem that he refused to admit he had, or just enjoying the time with him. Then I remembered Mark, and instead, I took a page from his book and spoke the language that any kid could relate to; FOOD.
“What’s good on that menu? Let me guess, you’re going to get the bloomin’ onion!” He smiled that infectious smile and answered, “Yeah! Are you going to share it with me just like you always do?”
“Of course!” I answered. “Of course! It wouldn’t be lunch with Gannan if we didn’t share the bloomin’ onion.”
When time was up and I had to bring him home, I pulled up to what was now his house. I gave him a kiss, and managed to ask if he’d like to go to another play next week. He answered yes and bounded out of the car. I yelled to him before he shut the door that I loved him. He looked me in the eye once more and said he loved me too. With that he slammed the door and ran up the steps. No problems solved. No essential conversations held. No certain future. But we had some moments, happy moments. For a brief lunch we danced in sync. And for now, that will have to be enough.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s Motherhood, Eye on Education, Faces, and Appleseed.