Last night one by one the family began to fall asleep. I stayed up a bit late watching the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” treatment of The Giant Gila Monster but at about 1 AM I began to feel sleepy myself. My son was still up in the living room, focused on Ralph’s laptop installation of the video game Plants vs. Zombies. He beat the game some time ago but apparently this unlocked puzzles and mini-games and a variety of fun diversions. He loves the game and plays with a joyous fervor when Ralph’s laptop is home and available during the evenings. Night before last I don’t know what time the boy came to bed; I know when I woke in the morning he was next to me, slumbering close to me and completely nude (this means after his bath he’d skipped the underwear and played the video games naked, which I think is rather awesome).
But in general our family goes to bed together – and yes, usually in underwear or pajamas. So now I get up from the bed and pad to the living room and ask my son if he’d be willing to come to bed with me. “Yes Mama,” he says (this phrase of my children’s is spoken so happily and peacefully and so often when we are in sync and I make a suggestion or request; it is music to my ears and most especially because I know they know they can say No). “Let me just finish this screen,” he says. I wait and watch while he performs a mind-boggling series of actions on the active gamescreen and then closes the laptop, stands, and slips his hand in mine. As we slide into bed I ask him if he wants a story and he says Yes, “A long, long, long story!”
My children love it when I read to them or tell stories, of course. I can tell a good tale when I feel like it and even write some decent fiction; for the former I need a clear mind and no distractions but this is easy enough now as the house is quiet; even the kittens are sleeping.
The story I begin to tell is of a little Wild Boy who lives deep in the woods. No one knows about him and although he is a small child he does not remember his family nor even during his days does he think of his own name; long ago he lost the habit and practice of speech. He eats berries and fishes and traps small animals because the one thing he remembers from civilized life is how to build a fire. He is a beautiful child but very dirty; his hair is in knots and his teeth are ill-kept, his clothes mere rags, items he could bring himself to steal from the expansive and terrifying large grasspaces of the Big Houses where strange creatures dwell, yammering and making funny smells and loud noises.
And so on. You know where the story goes: one day he follows a woman and young girl home and hides under their porch. He is discovered by the woman who begins to offer him care and food. He is overwhelmed but cautiously amenable to these changes; he begins to remember his name, to respond to the comforts of warm water and cooked food and safety in an enclosed space.
You might also guess how my son responds to this story. From the body language and intensity of Nels’ focus I knew for him this was no little Wild Boy but rather he himself in the story. Confirming my suspicions at a point he asked, “Did you feed me some chocolate-covered raisins?”
Up until then I’d been telling the story in third-person narrative.
Finally I could tell the story of the little Wild Boy no longer and I told him I must sleep. He whispers secrets to me for a while, his hands holding me and kisses on my cheek; writing this now I do not remember what he said but I know he was telling me about our life together, he as the Wild Boy and I as the woman in the house. Even though I knew I would not retain what he was saying – my mind was sinking as he spoke – I held hope I could ask him in the morning where his imagination took him and he would re-tell me.
Early in the morning some hours later Ralph and I wake at the same time and share a few words together in the bed, our son between us. Nels rolls over on his back and gently, in his sleep, points his finger, then again. He is playing his video game in his dreams. “I got the coin,” he whispers. Ralph smiles and stifles a laugh and asks our dreaming son, “Where was it?” “By the doom shroom,” Nels responds in his whisper. I kiss my son’s warm and slightly damp cheek (he and Ralph turn up their thermostat to ONE MILLION while asleep) and smell his hair and stretch then roll over to pick up a book to read for a few minutes before falling back asleep.
A new day and things are off to a slow start; I make the children Earl Grey tea and carefully slice a few hardboiled eggs, put yesterday’s chicken pot pie in the oven for later consumptoin today. The children leisurely enjoy their morning tea, salting each half of sliced egg judiciously, while my daughter (who is pretending to be a baby dragon) reads to my son. I make the beds and move some laundry along and answer some email correspondance and sip my own tea, talk to friends.
Then: it’s time to get going. First to swim; to adventure in our small way.