It’s dark when the alarm goes off and my husband hits the snooze button to squeeze a few more precious minutes of sleep from his restless night. I lay there not quite wanting to open my eyes and tentatively move my sore limbs, regretting my decision to tear down a fence in the back only a little, thinking, not bad for an old chick, as I become familiar with each ache.
The sound of the shower motivates me to swing my feet to the chilly floor and shuffle downstairs to turn on the kettle for tea. One English Breakfast tea bag goes into the stainless travel mug for my husband and I fill the coffee pot to the six line for myself, dumping two mounded scoops of coffee into the basket before remembering to actually turn it on.
The cat is looking at me from her perch on the arm chair and I’m wondering why she isn’t yeowling at me like she normally does at this point in my morning routine, hurrying me along so that she can have a fresh bowl of food. I glance at the dog’s dish to make sure my son has fed her before heading down to tend to the cat, proceding with caution on the stairs because I know she’ll come barreling down them right as I’m ready to take another step and I don’t want to be a feature story on the 5PM news. But she doesn’t today, and I look back to see her staring at me, seemingly as uninspired in this routine as I am. I tap the spoon on the rim of the cat food can and peer around the corner to see her headed down the stairs. She stretches each hind leg, then looks up at me and yeowls, as if to say, it’s about time.
I glance at the cat box on the way out, surprised that it’s actually clean. Not too long ago, frustrated with my son’s admirably persistent passive aggressive resistance in keeping the patio free of the doggo’s droppings, I switched responsibilities with him trading the cat box for the patio. With two rapidly aging pets, it’s anyone’s guess as to which job is more thankless than the other, but I figured it was worth a try.
My son’s nearly 17 and I can see signs of maturity. Fleeting signs. Like when the doggo is making a beeline toward the patio door, grim determination on her normally soft face, and then right before she passes over the threshold, lets a few drop, not quite making it yet again. Before I can throw my arms in the air and moan about how ridiculous it is that the dog can’t seem to know when she has to go, my son has a bag in his hand, shooshing me and saying he’ll pick it up. It seems there are some perks about having an almost 17-year-old in residence.
At some point in my early morning meanderings, I happen upon one of the books I leave around the house languishing in a semi-read state. I do this purposefully trusting that if they’re out of sight, they’ll also be out of mind, because much competes for my attention these days, most of which exists beyond the covers of a book. It works, and while I’m waiting for photos to upload, or my Mac to reboot, I pick one up to read a few paragraphs:
He knew that every adolescent boy is a loser and an outcast in some area: socially or emotionally, scholastically or athletically.
William Zinsser refers to an admired headmaster of a school he attended who made a place for all, enabling his students “to be comfortable with [their] limitations and confident in [their] strengths.” I don’t know that I disagree with him, even though seeing the statement printed on the page seems harsh, and I can hear imagined voices crying out against it, thinking it not true. But it is. It’s as true for girls as it is boys. I remember.
My son has developed a quiet grace that is pleasant to be around now that the Geometry teacher battles are a couple of years behind us. The Algebra II and Spanish skirmishes last year weren’t great, but having a teacher who was human did help restore his attitude about the difference a teacher can make even when one doesn’t love a particular subject. Too bad a kid isn’t graded on that since it’s what much of life can be based on — one’s ability to turn the other cheek. To deal with one’s limitations by moving on. To face that you don’t want to do something but have to no matter how much sense it doesn’t make.
The other day, he forwarded an oddly worded email sent by a person asking for his talents. When I first saw it, I thought of all the spam that flows in and out of the web every day but forced myself to consider what it was requesting. Evidently, the young man is a writer and graphic novel creator looking for an artist to illustrate portions of his publications. The artist currently a part of his team creates excellent characters with human likenesses, but not so much fierce, metallic, piston-firing mechs. She saw my son’s drawings on a site he’s been uploading work to for about a year now.
And so the drawing begins for his first paid job which, according to the writer, translates to free copies of the finished book to distribute as he chooses and a share of any profits received in sales. That could entail shopping the book around to local comic stores, and as much as I can say that my son is definitely talented, hawking his wares isn’t something I see him doing.
I’m thinking payment comes in the form of accepting a new responsibility and chalking it up to experience, but we’ll see. Far be it from me to squash anything impractical even though it’s genetically ingrained in me.
Just a minor shortcoming. I’m still working on it.