Time has eased in the last three years. Still, it's our little rituals that help us ease the transitions during times when Lil E is away from our home. Whether he is with his dad or spending the weekend at my parents' lake house or at a sleepover with a friend, we take a moment to prepare ourselves for the time apart.
Often, Lil E chooses one of my necklaces or bracelets and wears it as a reminder that I love him and that I will see him soon. It both pulls at my heart and soothes my soul to see him skip off, my eyes following the line from the sleeve of his Star Wars t-shirt to his skinny, tanned arm to the oversized pink rhinestone bracelet hanging over his little hand with inevitably dirty nails.
In the spontaneous moments of slight anxiety when a bauble is not available, I rely on a trick I took from the parents of some out-of-controlled kids I nannied for a million years ago. Their parents were in denial of their bad behavior or seemed overwhelmed by the idea that their children might be anything more than smart and beautiful. I was at a loss when they screamed and cried and threw tantrums. But in one chaotic moment when the parents were trying to leave for a meeting and the kids were in full meltdown mode, I earned something important. As the screams hit a peak, the dad reached in his pocket, pulled out his business card and said, "I am always available for you. This is a card to remind you of that." And then he left.
There have been preschool drop-offs and goodbyes in front of the babysitter and kisses through a car window when I've handed Lil E my business card, the one with the same pink shoe you see every time you visit this page, and whisper some very similar sentiment.
Before longer trips -- business travels for me or vacations with his dad for him -- I take it a step further, making him a calendar and writing a note to stick in his suitcase. I draw and I write and he knows this. It's what I do.
I'm not the mother who will weave an extravagant tale about flying boys and wizardry and unicorns, but I will happily draw Chewbacca doing Tae Kwon Do on his way to the 'burbs to spend a week with his dad.
I know -- ohh, how I know -- that these rituals are as important for me, as integral to easing my mind as they are to outlining the plan for a long weekend for my boy. The time I set aside to put crayons and Sharpies to paper are more important to me than remembering to pack my concealer and whitening strips or getting to the airport in time to grab a coffee and window seat. What's spoken in drawings and bubble letters speaks just as loudly as the hugs and kisses and snuggles -- and just one more kiss for the road.
When I left for NYC for BlogHer a few weeks ago, that ritual got more sacred.
I outlined the calendar, wrote the note, colored in pictures around the words that I penned, as per usual. We did what we always do -- read it all together, laughed at some parts, winked across the table at each other at other parts. But then Lil E told me he'd be making his own calendar and writing his own note. This time for me.
That would have been enough, his sweet intention and surge of independence. Then he really did it.
He made a grid for the calendar and filled it in with cartoons and speech bubbles and the plan for my week. He wrote a letter to me -- "No, I do not need help, Mommy! I know how to write it already." -- and he made sure I knew what it all said, reading it, explaining it and tucking it safely in my carry-on bag.
When I saw what he put there, both the tears and the smile came just as easily.
He wrote about my blog, with a picture of me at my laptop, the screen up to Yahoo, where I work. The message, in his own defiant writerliness, looks like "Tak Me Ee U Mse Me" but he told me says, "Text me if you miss me."
In the shorthand he loves for us to speak, he reminded me of things I could hear over and over again, no matter what city I'm in -- "I heart you" and "I heart New York."
And then, just before the hugs and kisses and his name sweetly and carefully tucked into the corner, he added a sentiment that is compassionate, facetious and so him. After many recent conversations about bosses and work and strategies for getting along with people who are different than you are in school and in your career, and in his way of reminding me that he is perceptive more is going on than me typing away on a blog where his picture lives, he wished out loud, "Hope your boss doesn't be mean to you."
I don't know if it was those words or just a turn in the universe or some next level we achieved in those precious moments before the doorbell rang and he ran off to be with his father for four days, but the trip (aside from the running) went exactly as he and I both hoped it would.
I'll take that. I will keep that note where I can see it every single day, now far from the Statute of Liberty and long after his I HEART NY tee has shrunk three sizes,as a reminder of the power of all those mighty thoughts wrapped up tightly in all those tiny rituals.