On Friday night I was sitting between my pals, Satish and Danta, enjoying a wonderful dinner of Indian cuisine when Danta asked, "Can you stay and watch Sweaty Guy tonight?"
We were celebrating a belated Christmas, so Danta was excited to pop The Year Without a Santa Claus into the DVD player. When he was little, he couldn't remember the name of the show, but as the Heat Miser was a memorable character, Danta gave him a brand new nickname. Thus, Sweaty Guy became the alternate moniker for one of our favorite holiday movies.
"Sure," I nodded. "I can stay as long as you'd like."
Satish gave me a sly smile. "Okay...well, only for three years."
I turned to him. "Oh, how sweet! Is that all? How about five?"
"It could be for only three seconds," Satish deadpanned.
I laughed out loud, wistfully acknowledging that my sassy friend will soon be a pre-teenager.
Later on, after the boys had opened the sweaters I had made for them (in U of M and Michigan State colors), their mother wanted to take a picture of the three of us.
Satish threw his arms around me and beamed, "Let's pretend we like each other!"
What a joy to see both the little boy he used to be mingled with the young man he's slowly becoming. It's the first time I've been able to watch the slow, steady progression of growth in children I cherish, and I'm often surprised by how the little changes in both of the boys only make me love them that much more.
Once Danta and Satish had donned their pajamas, they created a little nest on the floor with blankets and pillows, then invited me to join them like I did when they were little. It's been a couple of years since we've been able to find some downtime to chill out in front of the television, so I enjoyed every single moment, knowing that the years will pass by all-too-soon and someday they'll be more interested in hanging out with their friends.
I've been delighted to spend more time with the Sharmas this year. Satish's soccer games are on my winter calendar and I'll be picking him up from school in a couple of weeks to celebrate his eleventh birthday. Nine-year-old Danta and I enjoy working on puzzles and reading books and making each other laugh until we snort. His big sister, Neela, and I are looking forward to spending some time together in early February and when the oldest, Amita, comes back from an overseas trip, I'm sure we'll have plenty to talk about.
The girls are both in high school and busy with band and lacrosse and a host of other activities, so I've spent most of my time over the years with the boys...kicking a soccer ball, teaching them how to play tennis, and shooting baskets in their backyard. We've played countless games of chess, read dozens of books, and had sleepovers when we talked long past bedtime. I've driven them to soccer practice and cheered them on during their matches. As I grew up with sisters who didn't really like to get sweaty, it's been a unique pleasure to enjoy the often rough and tumble world of little boys who don't mind getting dirty.
I don't either...as long as I can clean up afterwards.
When Danta was in kindergarten, I spent the night when his parents went out for the evening. After a boisterous day of playing in the snow and a lively evening wrestling in the living room, the fellas were due for a quick clean-up before bedtime.
Satish and I were sitting in the hallway playing "Hangman" outside of the bathroom while Danta took a bucket bath. ("It's an Indian thing," Satish explained. "To save water.")
"Hey, Katie!" Danta exclaimed. "Come look at me!"
I stepped into the bathroom and saw that he had tightly wedged his little body into the bucket that was overflowing with soapy water. Delighted with his antics, I giggled, “Am I going to need a shoehorn to get you out of there?”
“A what?” he asked, his eyes wide.
Satish came in to see why I was laughing. His face turned serious. “Danta! You need to use that bucket properly! We don’t have another one and if you break it, Mummy and Papa will have to go to the store and buy one!”
Pressing my lips together, I turned away to squelch my laughter. Satish was right, of course, but it was still hilarious to see Danta in the bucket, his knees pulled tightly to his chest. Only he would think to do something so impish. And naturally, it’s exactly the kind of thing my inner Ramona finds hilarious.
Later that night when it was time to go to sleep, the boys curled up with their blankets on the floor of the guest room so we could all be together. Once the lights were turned out, Danta took a shuddering breath, asking, “When’s Mummy coming home?”
I could instantly hear the tears in his voice, knowing bedtime would be hard for Danta. While he was fine to play and have fun during the day without his mother, nighttime was when he most wanted her near.
Glancing at the clock radio, I said, “She should be home in about an hour or so.”
“Is that long?”
“Not really,” I told him gently. “And I’ll be right here.”
I turned on the nightlight and the room was bathed in the soft, orange glow of a tiny plastic basketball. When I climbed into the twin bed and got comfortable, Satish was well on his way to falling asleep, but I could hear Danta whimpering.
“Mummy,” he softly cried. “I want Mummy.”
Leaning down to stroke the hair away from his forehead, damp with sweat, I whispered, “Do you want to come up here with me until she gets home?”
He nodded eagerly. Leaving his blankets and stuffed animals behind, Danta climbed into the small bed and cuddled close. “Mummy,” he cried again.
I soothingly rubbed his head. “I know you miss Mummy,” I whispered. “She’ll be back soon. And I’m right here…I’m right here.”
We whispered about all of the fun we had that day, the snow angels he and Satish had made, the silly snowman whose eyes kept falling off, no matter how many times Danta tried to fix them. He soon relaxed and fell asleep in my arms, but by morning, had found his way back to his parents' room while Satish and I dozed as sunlight slowly filtered into the room. I lay there remembering the scrappy little girl I used to be who was often afraid when my mother was gone, who didn't want to be upstairs in our house alone, who was often frightened of the unfamiliar, the inexperienced.
After all of these years, I find that Danta and I are still very much alike. Even though we're getting better at sweating through the challenges, it's still a comfort to know that we're surrounded by people who understand us, who don't mind our quirks and silly sense of humor. Who love us unconditionally, no matter what.
So here's to my little sweaty guy who brings so much joy to my life...and teaches me that to be childlike is a doorway to the divine.
|My little sweaty guy, Danta, making snow angels in his backyard.|