Watching Water| August 11, 2012
The kids are finally asleep. The house is quiet. It’s the end of a long summer day, and it’s left everyone sticky and sandy. I have to peel my feet off dried ice pop drippings in the kitchen, and I crunch on grit in the bathroom.
I fold the laundry that covers my bed, then tackle the mess in the kitchen. I clear the sinks, sweep. I should really mop … maybe soon.
The waffle iron has been sitting on the counter for two days, waiting to be cleaned. Monday was Eliezer’s birthday, and when I asked him what he wanted as a special birthday dinner, he chose waffles. So waffles it was. We made them more festive by mixing in frozen blueberries and strawberries — which I am regretting now as I try to scrape their charred remains from the non-stick surface.
I look up suddenly and Eliezer is standing there like an apparition. He has this startling way of appearing, just suddenly being there without my ever realizing he’s approaching. I sigh. “What, Eliezer?”
“I need to make.”
“No you don’t. You just went to the bathroom before you went to bed.”
He hesitates, looking injured. I surrender, not willing to risk putting my foot down. “Just go quickly.”
I turn back to the waffle iron. From across the house I hear the telltale flush, the rush of the sink, then silence.
I glance down the hall. The bathroom light is still on, but he does that sometimes. I peek at his room: door open, bed empty.
“I’m here!” He leans back so I can see his face. He’s on the stepstool, still standing at the sink.
“What are you doing?”
“Watching the water go down the drain.”
“Oh.” I pause for irony — lost on my son. But after a moment my silence settles into something less cynical; acceptance, perhaps. Tolerance. To allow him space in this idiosyncrasy. To let him enjoy life for a moment without my constant “Five more minutes, then we leave for camp” ; “Finish cleaning up, then brush your teeth”; “Take out your wet things as soon as you come home, and hang up your bag.”
“Is it down yet?” I call after a reasonable few seconds.
“I can’t hear you!” he yells over the bathroom fan.
“IS THE WATER DOWN YET?”
I shrug and force myself to leave him be. A minute later he ambles down the hall past the kitchen to his bedroom, a skinny kid in blue and green pajamas with an army watch on his wrist, crew cut making his ears look a little big. “Good night, Ma.”
“I love you.”
“I love you,” he rejoins, and then closes his door.
I go back to the waffle iron, shaking my head at his quirkiness. But I’m glad that although he likes to move fast and have big adventures, he still has that innocent wonder that makes him stare at water swirling down a drain. And I’m glad that although I also like to move fast and keep order in my life, I still put berries in waffles sometimes, and I allow my child a moment to enjoy his world.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 302)
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