published on Injoy Blog, January 20, 2013
Last night, we began watching Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” while eating our pizza, knowing Skye would only enjoy the first part of the movie with us. Nearly all the extra-cheesy pizza slices – sausage and pepperoni – had been devoured when he jumped to his feet and quickly covered the length of the ramped hallway that leads to his and Stross’s bedroom. He needed to collect his wallet and whatever else he thought he might want for the rest of his night.
A few friends who were home from college had already arrived and a few more college friends were on their way. A van-full – more like our van filled – needed to leave soon if they were to catch the opening moments of whatever movie was scheduled to start prior to 7 p.m. The choice of movie didn’t matter. The night’s schedule and companionship did.
While Skye checked his hair in the bathroom mirror and reapplied a smooth-smelling layer of Axe Excite, the remaining three of us – Stross, Mark and me – continued to sit on the floor in our self-assigned spots around a lavender-flowered vinyl table cloth. For more years than I can correctly recount, either that cloth or its purple-and-white checkered cousin has helped protect the plush beige carpeting of The Big Room. It defines the space we use for our Family Friday Pizza Picnic, a weekly communion of breading, sauce and soft drinks.
Regardless of season The Big Room is always warm. In cold months, the heat of our fireplace permeates memories of paper-strewn Christmases after the boys have slept feet-to-head on our over-sized sectional, sleepovers where other families’ sons have joined ours to sleep the same way, movie nights with only the light from our television and the world’s moon shining through a wall of windows, and game nights when the room itself has become home base.
As Mark leaned against the slate of the fireplace ledge and Stross leaned against the cushioned checkered footrest of the chaise lounge, I watched from the purple footstool. Skye, his prepping complete, strode back to us. He cruised down the contoured angle of the ramp until coming to its platform intersection where – had he turned and continued following it – he could have gone directly to the garage door and the van of waiting friends. Instead, he stepped down and walked toward me on the purple stool. Leaning down, he softly kissed the snow-colored top of my head.
“Mhmmm … I love you. I will miss you when I’m at college.” The sound of his introductory sigh prefaced pure and unguarded emotion.
Drink this moment in, Joy. Do not let it go.
I watched him turn 90-degrees to the left and move to Mark. Leaning down, his lips found the top of Mark’s dark-haired head. Mark closed his eyes and consumed the same gift I had received.”I love you, Dad. I’ll miss you.”
Before the words had finished being spoken – before Mark could respond with “I love you, too” – Stross raised his chin and extended the trunk of his body toward the ceiling. He stretched as tall as he could make his body while still seated on the floor. His Cheshire-smile face invited attention, and Skye rewarded him with a pivot his direction and a kiss at the top of his forehead.
“Mhmmm … I love you, Stross. I’ll miss you next year.”
While never spoken, I heard the whisper of Dorothy to the Tin Man as Skye brushed his fingers through his brother’s ash-brown hair: “I think I’ll miss you most of all.”
“I love you, too, Bro-bro,” Stross chirped, adding a satisfied purr. “Hmmmm.”
The sound of Stross’ contentment matched the delicious preface of Skye’s holy kisses.
“Mhmmmm. I love you,” he had told us, and then he was gone – out the door and into the driver’s seat, sharing a journey with friends who have already traveled the path he will soon take.
It’s happening – just the way it should and just the way I hoped it would – even if it hurts.
Blessings that hold you close and never let go even when the one who blessed you has gone.
Mhmmmmm … I love him.
© Joy M. Newcom, January 30, 2013