Friday, January 8, 2010

The Warm and Fuzzies

One child regulates her body temperature backwards, the other sleeps with a fan on in his bedroom at night even in the dead of winter (where temperatures rarely dip below 30). Our kids may have things a bit wacky, but I love them with an ache so profound that it fills me with an awesome sense of joy and gratitude.

Maya became attached to a gray doggie sweater Verna and her father found after Verna's mother, Chela, died in late 2008. Apparently, Chela had purchased the sweater, with red rings around the sleeves, for Miguel in 1999 and forgotten about it. It turned out to be the right size for Maya, who wore it every day, to the park, to the store, to bed, which we interpreted as some kind of sign that Chela and Maya would always be bonded.

When the weather turned warm in November 2008, Maya insisted on wearing the sweater. As 2008 morphed into 2009, Maya wore the sweater. As the weather warmed up in the spring, Maya wore the sweater, which was now frayed around the sleeves and collar and dotted with holes. When we experienced one, two, three heat waves, with temperatures soaring near 100 degrees, Maya wore the sweater. Verna and I calculated the parental cost of imposing our will on a defiant child over a sentimental and blessed sweater. We let her wear it just about anytime, anywhere.

When we did have to yank it from her body, we gave her notice. “Maya,” one of us would announce in the evening, usually, “you won't be able to wear the sweater to bed tonight. We need to wash it.”

She relented, but not before she picked out a substitute: either her red one with white polka-dots or the fleece sky blue model that buttons up the front.

When we visited Connecticut and Massachusetts last summer, during the typical muggy East coast summer, Maya donned the sweater everyday. By then she was clad in a white one with tiny doggies around the collar, a suitable replacement for the gray one that was no longer wearable. Verna and our friend Amanda have plans to enshrine the original in a keepsake frame.

Now that it's winter, Maya still wears the sweater, but she often wants to take it off because she is too hot. "I'm sweaty," she will say at the park, or "I'm hot," even though most of us are wrapped in multiple layers and I never go without a hat.

The sweater does come in quite handy at times. Last summer, while everyone was viciously attacked by mosquitoes at Bass Lake at the edge of Yosemite, Maya was the only one not bitten. The sweater saved her, while even my brother-in-law's then six month old granddaughter could not escape the mosquitoes' wrath and hunger.

Maya's newest sweater of choice is another sky blue one, hooded and more like a sweatshirt, with a front pocket near the waist. Flowers dot the “sweater” that was sent to us by Aunt Sandy, a warm and generous relative by marriage who currently resides in the ICU of Hartford Hospital with heart and lung problems.

Maya's favorite sweater is another precious keepsake from someone who blesses our lives and whom Verna considers a guardian angel.

Miguel's gentle insistence on sleeping with the fan on could be a February kind of thing. My brother, who was born on February 4, 1963, always slept with the fan on. Miguel, who arrived 35 years later on Feb. 9, seems to be the same way. When it's broiling outside in the late spring or summer, we understand his need for the fan. But tonight, with temperatures hovering near 40, the fan is on. All Miguel says on cold nights is, “Don't forget, dad, to turn my fan off before you go to bed.”

I almost always remember. But sometimes Miguel wakes up in the middle of the night and turns the fan on. Then in the morning he will say, “How come you didn't turn my fan off?”

“But I did. You must have turned it back on.”

“Really?” he'll ask.

I mention these two body temperature examples because they are part of our children's quirky natures, the silly or fascinating or unique characteristics that usually make us love them more. Most of us love our kids deeply, and what I've realized over and over is how much I adore them and how much they add to our lives.

Last week, as I was showering before work and Miguel was brushing his teeth before school (Verna and I shower in Miguel's room), I said to him, “Miguel, you forgot to hang up your washcloth again.”

He often leaves his soggy washcloth in the shower overnight. I went on about mold and having to clean up after him.

“But I have you to do it,” he said with a straight face. “It's a win-win situation.”

I couldn't help but laugh, at his interesting logic and the cool smirk stretched across his lips.

Chalk another one up for the teenager-to-be.

Tonight when I got home from work, still wearing my winter coat, backpack and Red Sox ski hat, Miguel cranked up his iPod, attached to the docking station in the living room, and out blared one of my favorite hip-hop songs, Cascada's Evacuate the Dance Floor. Miguel pulled his shirt up and started whirling and twirling like a maniac. Maya became his mini-me, jumping up and down and kicking her legs out as she reached for me. I did the only sensible thing: I grabbed her hands and started rocking and rolling to the music. Miguel's faced was etched in concentration, Maya was giggling, and I was supremely happy, the recipient of another sublime moment of unconditional love for our two kids and a nearly overwhelming sense of pure happiness.

How did I get so lucky? I know that's a question most parents ask. The answer lies in nine year old sweaters and whirring fans and dancing with reckless abandon and appreciating the gifts offered by the universe.

No comments:

Post a Comment