Sunday, March 20, 2011

SUNDAY RERUN: Attila the Pillow Fighter

It's time for Sunday Favorites, hosted by Chari over at Happy to Design. It's a fun party, and you can get there by clicking on the Sunday Favorites button in my left sidebar. Come join us!
This is an entry from my personal blog, back in April of 2003. You know, one of the things I most enjoy about re-posting a favorite entry is that I get to reread it myself. I'd forgotten nearly all of this afternoon, and remembering it made me smile. Hope it does you, too.


Monday is dance class for Jen, after school. Joe and I sit in the waiting room, and usually he does homework while I read. Their mom stands at the wall, watching Jen dance.

This week there's no homework. The school is testing the kids to see if their learning is up to standards. Joe brought his Gameboy, and sat on the bench. I came in after helping Jen into her leotard and tights, and putting her hair up, and sat down next to Joe, with my pile of magazines, searching for yellow, yellow, yellow...

I sat next to him, not touching. The moment I was settled, he changed position, put his elbows on his thighs, and his right knee against my left thigh. Each time one or the other of us stood, he made sure his knee was against me when we were both seated again. It felt very much like there was some kind of emotional bond that physical gesture was echoing.

At home he finished his dinner before Jen, and stood behind my chair, asking, "Can I braid your hair?" "Sure," I said, and he went to work. Of course, just braiding it wasn't enough, and I soon had a pile of hair on top of my head.

"Oooh. The mean old school-teacher look!" he exclaimed, and we all laughed. I put on my mean old school-teacher voice, half screech, half speech.

"Sit in your seats and turn to page 37!" I cackled at them. "You will read without moving from your desks to page 700!" They were both already giggling.

"But, teacher, I have to go to the bathroom!" said Joe.

"Deal with it!" I shot back.

"But, I already peed my pants!"

"Well, then, you'll be dry by the time you finish!" He's a typical nine-year-old--that had to have been the funniest thing he'd heard all day, and he practically fell down he laughed so hard.

When their dad got home, we had to go through that whole routine again, and at the sight of Joe standing behind me, hands full of my hair, his eyebrows rose slightly, and he murmured to me, "There's a certain level of comfort being indicated here," and I nodded. It's a good feeling.

The kids went downstairs to play, and I took a moment to tell their Dad what else had happened at dance class. Joe and Jen's mom had asked me if I wanted a coffee. Joe offered, "My mom's secret is that she likes you. That means she trusts you."

I was taken aback, not so much because she liked me, but because I didn't quite know how to respond. Could I honestly say I liked her? The words wouldn't come, she has done and said so much that is harmful to her kids. I sat there, stammering, and finally managed to blurt, "Well, what a nice secret to have!"

She didn't seem to notice anything amiss, and as we left the studio and walked together down the sidewalk, we laughed and chatted about...movies, I think. But it was a friendly conversation, and I saw the likeable side of her.

On the way home, I told Joe, "My secret is: I like your mom, too."

I saw his grimace reflected in the rearview mirror. "Why!?" he asked.

Oh dear. What to say to that? I told both kids, "Sometimes people...we all do things that aren't good, but we can still like the person without liking everything they do." Joe was quiet, and I could tell he was thinking about that.

Craig thought I'd handled the situation well, and the kids were standing at the bottom of the stairs calling, "Anitra! When are you coming down? You said you'd come down and play!", so I told him I'd better get down there before they came and got me.

I tiptoed down. They were hiding behind a wall they'd made of an over-sized hassock, sofa cushions, and a big body pillow. I could see them in the mirror that hung on the wall and faced both the stairs and playroom. Joe's head popped up, he saw me in the mirror, and cried, "Jen! She's coming! Attack! Attack!"

Oh, man. We had the hugest pillow fight. They were the Chinese, their "wall" was the Great Wall, and I was the Huns. All of them. Joe told me once, "Lie down. You're dead...But there are thousands more Huns, and they all look like you, and they're all dressed like you, so you can get up...aaaaaggghhh!!!"

Toward the end it was almost more wrestling match than pillow fight, with the three of us grappling and screaming on the floor. Again, the physical contact with Joe seemed to disguise a longing to be touched, a show of affection even when he was flinging himself across my back and urging his sister to do the same.

We were a tangled heap of arms and legs when their dad came down. He stood with his hands on his hips and said, "Kids, your babysitter is the best sport in the world. I hope you know that."

I couldn't find words to tell him, although it should have been easy. I was having as much fun as they were. How could that possibly make me a good sport? 


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