The Not Boyfriend picked him up from school yesterday in a new-ish arrangement we have. They get some boy-time together and I get an extra hour or two to hammer on my laptop for my clients. When the Not Boyfriend asked if he could help me and hang with E more often, like on a regular basis a few school days a week, I was hesitant. I handed over the pick-up duty protectively.
Parents who share custody will understand. Every drop of our visitation time is precious. Even if it is spent trapped in traffic in the car or managing a tantrum or waiting in line at Trader Joe's, it is all time that we don't have on Wednesday nights or every other weekend or next Thanksgiving.
It has been a slow and steady process for me to release that time from my grip so that E has an opportunity to relax with his grandparents, have playdates at other people's houses, stay after school for a drama class, be a kid, have his own life. And now that the Not Boyfriend is RIGHT HERE, being with him is a part of E's life, too.
Plus, E loves that time. He pumps his fist with a "yesssss!" when I tell him the Not Boyfriend will be there at pick-up time. He asks after the Not Boyfriend regularly, asking if he can come by for dinner, to play Scrabble or just laze-out on a Sunday afternoon with us. It is good and healthy and a great sign. It fills me up. And it is also filling in some of those spaces in our schedule together, too.
Yesterday, in the hours between school and when E would pack up for a night at his dad's house, the Not Boyfriend picked him from school and asked me if they could have some time to run an errand. When they arrived at my back door, E was carrying his backpack and a Tupperware container half-full of the ham and cheese from his lunch and some kind of broken, dirty pen it looked like he picked up from the sidewalk. And these tulips.
E is a decisive and thoughtful gift-giver. It's something in him that I love. Even though other people help him make those purchases, I've been with him enough times shopping for my parents or my nephew to know how he is. She'll want purple, I know it! He's going to love the monkey best. I think it's time for Grandpa to get more crossword puzzle books.
When he handed me the tulips, I did the awww and gasp thing, as mamas do.
"I knew you would like the pink," he smiled as he said matter-of-factly. There was no question.
"Did the Not Boyfriend take you to get these?" There was no question about that either.
He smiled and nodded, his chapped lips covering his overbite and his hair fallen over his brown eyes. Then he turned and ran up the stairs and I turned to the Not Boyfriend.
Thank you, I mouthed. He winked at me as he walked to the car.
"Bye, E!" he yelled out. But E was already two floors up.
Inside, as I added a trickle of water to the pot, E said I could put the tulips on the table next to the front door, or maybe by desk. Their fragrance filled up the space between the two of us while I decided.
I woke up alone on this Valentine morning, the Not Boyfriend already at work baking focaccia or mini-cupcakes at his job downtown and E with hid dad across the city, getting ready for school and passing out cards and tiny erasers we chose for each kid in his class. But when I got home, the tulips were waiting patient and pink on the front hall table for me.
Their blooms were open slightly more, the smell of them even stronger.
The whole pot fits perfectly in my palm, and while I held it there for a moment, I realized that these tulips were swaying back and forth much the same way E and I do when we walk down the street or up the stairs with each other. The big bloom bent toward the little one, and the little one pulled away and then wove back across the stem of the mother.
I see them that way because I want to, because when a child is not in his home as much as a parent would like him to be, a mama finds ways to feel their presence around them.
My boy swayed around me today in the form of sweet pink tulips, petals stretching and perfume whispering that he is still here. It's not always how much time but what we bring back to the place where we meet when we get there.
I got back to work and to making coffee and to conference calls. He had gym today and CandyGram delivery to look forward to and it may have been warm enough for outdoor recess as a treat. The Not Boyfriend sent me funny e-cards and made a rare appearance on Facebook and left me with a dozen radiant, hot pink roses. When we all are in the same room again, playing a game or laughing about something that has yet to happen or making plans for another day, I hope the flowers are still there, speaking as they did today.
I know you. And I love you. And you will love the pink.