At 6:30 our day began as usual. A little barking dog emerged from the bottom bunk, yapping and crawling around on the floor. Our top bunker threw himself around in grouchy spasms for about a minute before climbing down the ladder. Dad said good-bye and headed out the door while mom begrudgingly dragged herself out of bed and down to her morning coffee.
After a few sips and the ability to completely open my eyes the morning headed in a much different direction.
“Aiden buddy, you want eggs for breakfast?”
With a look that said, “What mom? You’re not going to make me wait for you to drink your coffee and then beg me to drink a yogurt so you don’t have to wash anything?” he happily agreed.
After Finn devoured two bowls and Aiden two bites I pulled out two sets of clothes handpicked the evening before, pulled from the drawer (not the dirty clothes hamper), and completely stain-free.
Yes, things were shaping up quite strangely in the Scanga household.
“Alright Aiden, what do you want to watch while mommy gets ready?”
“The Polar Express!”
After an involuntary “No” I quickly remembered today was a special day, sat the boys on the rug, and switched on the movie (skipping right to “the ice, the ice” under Aiden’s approving stare).
Once ready I herded Aiden onto the porch, straightened his polo, and snapped a few shots.
We climbed in the car and with Aiden chatting excitedly drove a few minutes down the road, pulled into a large parking lot, and emerged from the car with Joel waiting on the sidewalk to greet us.
A few more obligatory shots in front of the building and Aiden was off… to school.
Aiden tore into his classroom, the first one there, and immediately pulled out the trains he found on our previous visit.
After covering a few details with his wonderful teacher I hovered uncomfortably for a few moments, both hoping for and dreading a long hug, some “please don’t go’s” and possibly a few tears.
Instead I forced a kiss and a terse good-bye then followed the other parents into the crowded hallway with Finn in my arms and a lump in my throat.
My little boy was going to school. He didn’t need me to put on his shoes, cut his chicken into little bites, put him down with a story and a kiss for nap…
Someone else would do all that. And while I had anxiously awaited a break from mothering two children I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing.
I found myself reaching for his hand when we crossed the street, pulling out a green m&m when Finn went on the potty, and listening for his footsteps down the stairs after nap.
I had just about decided it was too much when I picked him up from school. We would have to switch to a half-day program, or perhaps he should go just three days a week.
Then I saw the pride on his little face when he spotted me on the playground. There was no clutching of my neck or tearful reunions like the other kids, but he ran inside his classroom and returned with two Thomas books in his hands, his face glowing.
“I got these at the library! We got two books. I saw another one but the man said I could get it next time…”
And the boy I used to literally bride to tell me anything about his days hardly stopped talking all the way until bedtime.
He told us how he handed the card to the librarian, and the librarian in turn handed him his books, he told us he slept next to Abigail and thought about trying his mashed potatoes for lunch (he didn’t, but he wanted to note that he thought about it), and of course my favorite, how he hugged a boy who was crying on his way to the bathroom.
I found out later, from both his principal and teacher, that he and Abigail were great helpers, comforting the other kids who were missing their mommies and daddies.
And as much as a small, selfish part of me wishes he missed me a fraction of the amount I miss him, I am so proud of him.
Life is very different here for Finn and I. We both miss Aiden terribly (though Finn is undeniably benefiting from the unobstructed use of such objects as Thomas trains and pocket watches).
I am sure that eventually 3:30 will not seem so very far away.
But until then I am counting down the minutes.