I have hesitated to talk about Mason’s birthday. But now it’s been about a month and the sadness of it is either all dried up or just dammed up and about ready to overflow all over the place. He’s 8. Eight is great, unless you are the momma of said giant 8-year-old. Then it’s heartache on heartache as you try to pick him up one last time, fiddle around to find a comfy spot on the couch where you both can take a Sunday nap, or even when you realize though he still reaches for your hand on the way to school you feel like you’re holding a man’s hand. He’s totally grown up.
His “friend” birthday party was a bit of a disaster. Though in late September, Colorado had record temps and our planned mini golf outing turned into a sun-baked whinefest where one boy scaled a porta-john and another one even barfed. His “family” birthday party got upstaged by a golf tournament. And then there were the costumes.
My children have always had a thing for dressing up. Mason especially loved costumes that uniformed him for his imaginary travels to space. While Coop was content in ninja digs and an occasional Power Ranger, Mason always looked for shiny suits and oxygen packs. If his costumes failed him, he’d just build some box armor from cardboard waiting for the recycle bin. After a short break from dressing up – so short I didn’t even realize we were on a break – the boys asked to dress up.
They were sitting in the back of my dad’s pick-up truck – a classic gas-guzzling vehicle meant to pull boats and snowmobiles, and climb mountains and stuff. My boys were fascinated. Not the type of thing that a lot of people around here own. The truck’s tailgate gave them access to the stars and they started dreaming. Next thing I knew they were trying to squeeze themselves into costumes that fit just a month or so ago.
I can’t overstate the squeezing. The costumes were REALLY small. My boys were REALLY big. And all I could do was stare at them, slack-jawed, and unabashedly shocked. But I was not sad.
Following their night flying through the cosmos on the wings of their creativity, I picked up the costumes, helmets, space packs, even a dinosaur suit and stuffed them in a box. I can’t overstate the stuffing. With not a single melancholy thought I drove them to the post office, slapped an address label on them and sent them on their way to Oregon.
Oh those costumes are so happy now.
But I am thinking about a boy with big blue eyes, feathery soft blonde wisps of hair, pink cheeks, and the sweetest, most inquisitive look ever possessed by a 2-year-old. The baby who took himself so seriously, right from the start. The boy who consoled his big brother during time outs administered for being mean to little brother. And I’m thinking about how much he loved those costumes.
Last year at this time, I had all but given up on writing. I haven’t explained myself, really. But someone hurt my baby. In a moment of maladaptive behavior another student found a way to destroy my Mason’s spirit, his confidence. When I would try to sit down and write, all I could think about were sad things, sometimes hurtful things, things I wished I could say to bullies – imagined and otherwise. It’s unfortunate because as a result, I don’t have a very good record of sweet Mason’s 7th birthday, nor our family’s recovery during 2013.
Mason wrote us a letter during that time. It started, “I need your help. I have some very big problems.” Then in great detail he recounted the ways in which he’d been tortured by a classmate. What I know now, with it all behind us is this: Mason helped us. He has grown so much this year and shown us the value of courage, kindness, and rising to the challenge. Per our tradition, on the eve of his 8th birthday I tucked him in and said good-bye to 7-year-old Mason. As it turns out, it was the most gut-wrenching good-bye I’ve said as a parent.