Sheldon is refusing to get off my person, screaming at Sol-Raniera and scurrying out of reach. I say, “Look, he’s got to learn to keep up with me because the other option is him screaming daggers into all of our brains and who can blame him?”
Sol isn’t convinced but Sheldon is snapping and screaming and Sol’s tolerance is stretched thin and I’m late to pick up one of our crew.
“Trust me, okay? If he’s going to be happy, he needs to be free.”
I’m only trusted because Sheldon, without the negotiation of words and the handicap of clipped wings, keeps hurling himself at me, beak and claw. I enter the room and he lays claim to me in his shrill, relentless way.
Sol says, “I’m sorry, mom, he just wants you. I don’t think we can change that.”
But Sol’s not that sorry because he’s come to me in tears, expressing his overwhelm at having to grow up so quickly with the care of such a mischief bird. He has said, “I need time to play with my friends without worrying! I am only eleven, this is a lot of responsibility for a boy my age to do all by himself.”
And I smile at him because it is true; this firstborn of mine has shown me the kind of father he’ll be one day; he wakes up early, makes himself a big cup of tea, sits in the kitchen, gathering his silence, and then goes in to wake up Sheldon. He has read about the importance of routine for emotional and physical health. This leadership has translated into his compassion toward me as a mother and he has helped to organize not only his siblings but himself.
So I say to him again, “Trust me, okay? We’ve got to make this work, especially with the changes ahead.”
Sheldon is cooing happily from the cheap-seats on my shoulders, whistling in my ear, becoming weightless, invisible, and then re-emerging; like so many discoveries in my life: new and as familiar as the stories binding my DNA.
Sol says, “Yeah, I get it.”
And then he comes in quietly, giving his bird-boy a few kisses and whispering, “Be good to mama, okay?”
Sheldon agrees and as I reverse, put on the music, he begins to sing, scampering across my shoulders, rubbing up against the edges of my vertebrae and skull.
He stays with me as I climb out of car and run across campus, he clings tightly to shirt and nestles close to my neck, ear, grabs hold of my bundle of a ponytail and whistles happily, the same way I used to when a particularly riotous swell took hold of me and there was nothing to do but sing and laugh and trust that I’d be loved upon, even if battered and rolled up on shore, my leash wrapped around my ankles and my surfboard dragging me into the undertow.