That it has been a difficult day is obvious. His shoulders low, his head hangs dejectedly.
Fifth grade is hard.
He smiles sadly, somewhere between wistful and apologetic. “Yeah.”
“Somebody I can beat up for you?”
He sighs and shakes his head.
“I made tapioca for dessert,” I say.
He sighs again and my heart breaks.
“You know what would be nice?”
He looks at me.
“Being little again, before things got so hard. Remember being little?”
He smiles, just a little. He remembers.
“Go get your bedspread.”
He looks at me, looks sideways and narrows his eyes.
“Go on,” I say, gesturing toward his room. “Just pull it off the bed. It’s not like you were going to make it, anyway.”
A small house, the trip from the living room to his bedroom is a matter of no more than a dozen steps.
He returns with his bed cover, and I move the coffee table so that I can spread it out on the living room floor.
He looks at me, a smile creeping over his face.
“Go on,” I say. “You know what to do.”
It’s been many years, but he drops to the blanket, lays his head on one corner; and like I did so many, many times before, I roll him, swaddle him tightly.
“My little papoose,” I say. I sit on the floor next to him, pull him onto my lap as much as I can. His 12th birthday just weeks away, he is already an inch taller than I am.
I put my arms around him, squeeze him and rock back and forth. He laughs, smiles up at me. “Do I look stupid?”
I gaze down at my Boy. “I don’t think you’ve ever looked stupid,” I say.
I hold him to me, his head on my collarbone. I rest my head on the top of his. The late-afternoon sun streams in onto the hardwood floor next to us.
“I feel better,” he says, sheepishly.
I kiss him on the forehead, look out the window. “You’re still just a kid,” I say, my eyes on the red and gold leaves on the tree across the street.
“Were there still strawberries for the tapioca?”
“There were two left,” I say. “Just enough for me and you.”
He sighs. “Good,” he says.