Today I enjoyed the rare occasion of having the morning to myself.
Well, this is not entirely true: I had Finn to take care of, if only for a short while before Jenn was to return home from a circuit of errands and visits.
Cayde was away at a friend’s place, his mere absence from the home enough to seemingly de-person the house by three. Quiet is a creature unknown to the parent of a five-year old, much less a five-year old possessed of a precocious yin and yang. Cayde embodies a big personality, alternately sweet and sour. The vinegar and honey we find so favorable in combination on the palate is sometimes less so when extended to matters of temperament.
When Cayde is gone I miss him both terribly and fondly. Terribly because his amber sentiments and otherwise honeyed ways are suddenly absent. No blond hair decorates the rooms. The sweetness he engenders is lacking, as are the hugs and the spontaneous games he creates to pass the time. But if I miss him terribly, I also miss him fondly because—in that vacuum of time while he’s away—the acid parts of his behavior are also away, and missing him becomes easy and sentimental.
One of my favorite song lyrics is: “I miss you when you’re around/ I’m never lonesome when I’m by myself.”
This morning it was Finn and me. Finn is as much an easy complement to the a.m hour as a prolonged cup of coffee or a leisurely read of the dailies. Given a highchair session (in which at session’s end, Finn will list starboard in his seat and entreat ‘more more more’ with a clapping of hands) and an ecstatic jump-about in his bouncie, Finn is predictably ready for a nap. Nap time is usually signaled by a series of yawns, some light fussing, and—upon being picked up—a burrowing into the shoulder.
Today was no different. Being hypotonic—having low muscle tone—Finn accordion-folded easily into my neck like a well-creased sheet of origami paper. It’s sometimes what people find precious about children with Down Syndrome: their low tone lends agreeability to a hug. There is no resistance, just complacency; and as we want things to be easy—always—this seems a gift. Finn is easy.
The refrigerator hummed monotone this morning once I put Finn down: a white noise and the only registerable sound in the house. Usually, there is music playing in the kitchen, but melody was on lockdown this particular a.m. Given to white noise—the thrumming of the fridge, the drawing of a bath—there was room to think and thoughts pulsed along with the chevron up and down of some quiet and background orchestra.
I remembered being a kid some years ago and listening to the vent of the heater come 6 a.m., snuggled in blankets and hearing a near chorale of voices ride in on the warmed air.
White noise becomes many-colored when given an ear, and single tones spiral into a multitude of accidental tenors if given the concentration. There always exists a chorus in one steady note.
I used to lie in bed, my six-year old self, and stare at the popcorn ceiling. That old acoustic-applique–that Seventies’ thing–craterous and conducive to imaginary images suspended above the bed. Morning would sneak in through the sycamore leaves just outside the window and, while the heater persisted, senses would jump ship one deck to the other: a dip in the heater’s register became a spangle of color, the grey-tones of the ceiling would shift suddenly into something tenorous. Then I’d press thumbs into my closed eyeballs until I saw colored spots. I’d open my eyes and there’d be chains of reds and blues obscuring parts of the ceiling, and the shadows of the sycamore leaves were suddenly multitudinous notes in the one-note drone of the heater. Until the heater shut off: then the spangles became ellipses and all would be quiet.
Thirty years later, the refrigerator and its thrumming white noise failed to make as splendorous a play. The sound was present, but not the grand sensorial show; the mechanical whir of the fridge attuned itself instead to the all-too-usual discomfiting pulse of caffeine; that and its bridesmaid, a steady dose of OCD, that something frenetic, which led me room to room buzzing impotently. The living room was askew. Disconcertingly so, as it was in the process of being redecorated. Bookshelves had lost their alignment and the new couch didn’t yet have its matching rug; the room was segueing warm to cool and with the room not having made up its mind just yet, I retreated. The porch plants needed attendance—the season was changing—and the side-yard begged attention. Aagh.
I checked on Finn. He was reliably asleep. With him being so easy, I should’ve been just as reliably productive. But instead, there was me simply being stuck. Warm light poured through recently un-curtained windows, the chaise lounge proved grey and noncommittally soothing. There was orange chair, old chair, and something purpurea just poking above the front window. I was poised and holding the kitchen counter in pretend support.
These minutes. These certained minutes. While Cayde is away and while Finn is asleep—it should be easy time for me. But currently I’m disliking ‘easy’: something in me recoils at the word, the concept even. Finn is often described, near categorized, as: ‘good’. Which, to me, seems—frankly–a lazy interpolation of ‘easy.’ Cayden is a good kid, too, but far from ‘easy.’
I held on to the kitchen counter unsure. Pausing. My vinegar child was away, my honey one slept. And I’m usually proud of my productivity, but meanwhile: what to do, what to do. I was balking. Jenn already did the laundry.
Refrigerator thrumming, I pulled a knife off its magnetic strip, and set down a bamboo cutting board. My hands tend to shake when coffee’s involved. I found a forgotten grip of mushrooms in the produce bin, remembered there were shallots in the pantry. Something automatic took over, and there was the wiping of mushroom caps, a snap-click of the burner-ignition, olive oil and a fair amount of chopping. Two fires: one, stock and wine; the other, a methodical offering of ingredients. Creminis and garlic, thyme, shallots, and salt. Season with vinegar—chef’s secret. It’s so simple to me, so practiced.
I generally dislike simple. I dislike easy, even when it quells the shakes in my hands. I worried once that Finn’s demeanor—his agreeability—was flag to his diagnosis. Is his easiness a side effect of his syndrome? He has an extra chromosome: why does this complication, this duplication of genetic material result in something less problematic, less byzantine, than the normal expression of genes? Is he ironically easy? Somehow simple?
Friends I’ve recently met, those who also parent children with Down Syndrome deny easiness. It’s not entirely unique to Finn, but it’s rare. He’s easy not because he’s good or simple or IQ-depressed or because his chromosomes have over-expressed themselves. It’s who he is. Completely opposite his Papa who is high-strung, compulsive, and one shade shy of Alvy Singer.
Finn: he slept this morning, then woke up watchful, happy. Voila: there was a perfect reduction on the stove-top. Finn—he clapped his hands and, with reddish locks curling his ears, signed ‘more, more’ not because in his high-chair he was actually celebrating anything I did while he slept. ‘More, more,’ he signed, because nothing while he slept actually mattered.
Instead: ‘more, more.’ As in: more Cayde (‘drudder’) and Mama and Dada. How simple easy things become complicated.
Today I enjoyed the rare occasion of having the morning to myself.