Camping Out

He’s almost 8, my son lying next to me, his permanent smile mirroring my own. Is that Saturn? he asks, looking up at the sky. I ditched the tent’s cover, only transparent thin fabric between us and the universe. Am I trying to remember what 7 was like, or did I never grow up? It doesn’t matter, we are here, together, our fingers pointing at constellations, sometimes a plane flying off to cross the Pacific. We talk about other earths and aliens until he drifts into slumber mid-sentence.

As he snores quietly I read about Lydia Child, her quest to end slavery. I listen to the crickets, imagine camping without the tent, without freedom, following the north star to Philadelphia or New York or Canada. Then I’m asleep. I dream about walking deep in the woods, seeing a gray fox. I wake to the sound of rustling bushes. It might be 1am, click my flashlight on, sets of eyes reflect back from outside the tent. Two deer a few feet away nibbling grass. Pausing they stare at me, then trot off. Asleep again until maybe 4am, then Hudson has to pee. We totter out half-awake, an owl hooting nearby, the two of us in our pjs, little streams in the dark.

It’s morning, Hudson says at 7am. He’s snuggled up next to me in his sleeping bag, hair mussed. Good morning, kid, I say. We grin, no words, just love.

My Son, My Teacher

Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder, just saying it makes me feel as alone as my son. I’ve become an extension of his brain, a place to store all his esoteric knowledge about hummingbirds and basilisk lizards. I try to pretend the repetition is normal, the constant cataloging of information, but I find myself inundated, overflowing with facts I’d rather forget.

His world exists in paper animal masks that he meticulously designs and colors, then wears, embodying each creature. I time him running around our block, his peregrine falcon wings flapping off his seven-year old imagination. I vacillate between fully joining him, wearing the mask he made me, and living in fear that he will never change. That tension between what is and what I want, exists always.

Meditation has helped me navigate parenthood. The breath only knows one moment, this one, now. When I detach from my dreams of him playing basketball and having abundant friends, I get lost in the beauty of his being. His seconds in space are unencumbered by my expectations, he is free.

My son has become my teacher. I no longer dwell on his future, schools he will attend, careers he might explore, that is gone. Instead, I’m with him, all of him, in this very second.