A Bigger Splash, David Hockney, 1967
On Wednesday, Little J walked into our bedroom after his swim lesson, and suddenly I saw him as this kid who’d grown up while I wasn’t looking. His sun-bleached hair in his eyes, his tanned skin, his hoodie zipped half way. The smell of chlorine. I was looking ten years into the future when he’ll be this tall, athletic teenager who walks around without a care.
“Mom, I have somesing to tell you. Your are going to blow away by this.”
And then he was little J again. I pulled him into my arms. I could feel the sunshine lingering on his his cheeks, his warm back.
“What is it, my sweet?”
“I passed the swim test at the club. I can go off the diving board now.”
I look at Dennis for some confirmation. This seems far fetched, coming from the kid who was barely dog paddling last week.
Dennis nods, all grins. Proud papa.
“That’s amazing!” I squeeze Little J tight, trying to picture him full-out swimming, and honestly I can’t.
There have been patches of this summer that have gone by, small bits of time, two weeks, one week, where I’ve been flat out with chemo fatigue, and Little J has unfurled a whole new part of himself. Then during my week off, we spend every second together, and I catch up. This was one of those times.
We took J to Finn’s to celebrate the completion of his swim lessons and his diving-board test. He doesn’t want to go off the diving board, by the way. But he’s ready if, for some reason, he has to. He told us this over dinner, during which he ate two meals from the kids’ menu.
And after polishing off his sundae, he hands me the cup of crayons and paper. We’re ready to pay up, but he wants me to draw him a picture first.
“Mommy. Draw a pink castle because that’s your favorite color. And draw you as the princess inside.” I do.
“Now draw daddy as the prince, and he needs a crown and a big, big sword.” I do.
“Now draw the super-hero kid flying over everything with a giant knock-out-punch fist. In case the other people can’t kill the dragon, and he has to.” I do.
He thinks it’s perfect and is finally ready to go home. He doesn’t want to have to kill the dragon himself, by the way, but he’s ready, if for some reason, he has to.
Today we’re celebrating Little J’s birthday with a small group of friends, and tomorrow we’re headed off for our first camping trip as a family. I’ve never seen a happier, more excited kid. And the fact that he didn’t have me draw this dragon that he might have to tangle with is giving me hope that his summer is as carefree as we’re trying to make it. Hope yours is too, so far.