Saturday, November 15, 2008

On returning home

I have been gone a long time – two months in New York working on a new project – some of it in our cabin in the Catskill mountains and some if it in Manhattan, but all of it away from home here in Cologne. I’ve been back almost a week now and I’m beginning to feel adjusted, although I still get up in the middle of the night and wander into the kitchen, and take naps in the middle of the afternoon. My clock is off. However, the thing that is taking the most time to get sorted out is how grown-up His Holiness has become.

Two months, eight weeks, not that long really but in that time his voice has changed, the corduroy trousers we bought this summer are already too small, he’s also outgrown his shoes and it isn’t just his body that has grown, it’s the little man inside who has changed, in ways I find hard to accept. Monday morning the two of us are sitting in the kitchen and he tells me he wants some cereal. Before I can get up, he’s already over at the bread safe pulling out the box of corn flakes, into the fridge for the milk and opening the cutlery drawer for a spoon. Down he plops it all on the table where he builds his breakfast, steady hands on the milk carton, none of the slopping, dripping and spilling that would have characterized his preparations just a few weeks ago. He dresses himself now, although he still has a little trouble with socks, and that includes selecting his clothes and zipping up his jacket in the morning before going off to kindergarten. Even I have trouble with that testy zipper!

However, it wasn’t his dexterity with zippers and breakfast cereals that had me scratching my head, it was his new-found voice, a voice that is a note or two higher following his enrollment in a signing class, and a voice that is far better able to speak its mind than it was when I left for America in early September.

A bit if background is in order. When there is something I want him to do, that he might not otherwise be disposed to doing, I make him a deal. “You eat some of those green things on your plate and you can have that pudding we bought this afternoon” or, “If you brush your teeth right now we will play Airport for an extra 15 minutes before you go to bed.” I’ve found this to be a very effective strategy in the past and started right back in with it on my return. Well, yesterday he announced from the living room floor that he doesn’t like my deals because any more because I was getting far more of what I wanted and he was not getting enough of what he wanted. He repeated that assertion at the dinner table when confronted with a plate of steamed broccoli. Broccoli used to be one of his favorite veggies – eight weeks ago – but no longer. He’s off broccoli and on to spinach: How was I to know? Later Mama informed me that he had made a few shifts in his food preferences during my absence, broccoli was one of the casualties, so were green beans and hamburgers. Last night he told me he didn’t want to eat any more meat at all, except crispy chicken and German sausages. Things were quite different around our little home while Papa was away and HH took clearly the opportunity to assert his culinary predilections, his sartorial independence and voice in general. Eight weeks, it seems, is a very long time in the life of a recently five year old boy.

I had assumed it would take some time for me to weave my way back into his life, but I could not have imagined how different that life would be from the one I left behind.