We went to a little park today. It was green, shaded, clean, with playgrounds and picnic tables and a nice beach on Wabassis Lake. The day is sunny, blue and green in shocking hues.
We waded in the water, shallow for a long way from the shore, and gathered snail shells; hoped we'd catch a slimy inhabitant still home. Most of them had flown the coop. Or swam the shell. We paddled the blow-up boat between buoys, in and out of the swim area. A young girl stood a short way down the beach, knee deep in water with a fishing pole.
Later I stood outside a closed stall in the women's restroom, Eliot inside, chattering away: Was I sure it was okay for him to go in the girls' bathroom, since the door on the men's room stall wouldn't close? Was I sure that I was standing directly outside the door? Was I sure nobody would see him?
"It's okay for you to be here, Eliot," I said. "You're a little boy and I'm your mommy. You're with me, it's okay. And nobody is going to see you."
I heard the toilet flush in the large handicapped stall next to Eliot's, and a lot of shuffling around. The door opened and a woman emerged, fighting a wheelchair and an awkward door, in too close quarters. In the chair she carried her own son but he was not a little boy. I saw his eyes rolled back in their sockets, his mouth was crooked and drooling, and his head turned upward toward the sky, like he was waiting for heaven to come down.
I said excuse me and moved from the front of Eliot's stall. The woman tried to pass in too great a hurry and swiped a metal garbage can with the chair, sent it rattling across the tile floor and banging the concrete wall. She hastily retrieved the can and set it in a more sensible place, behind the door. Her hurry wasn't angry or unkind, just tired. There's a kind of tired that makes you hurry; you start out carefully washing each dish but an hour later when you reach the last one you merely grace it with a tired, half-soapy wipe.
I wondered how a thousand of these bathroom trips would wear me if I knew they wouldn't end or how many of my hairs would gray as the little body on the toilet seat grew into a man's and the man never showed up to claim it.
And then they were gone, the tired mother and her angel-kissed son.
"uh-oh Mommy. I'm going to have to unlock the door, do you know why? Because I can't reach the toilet paper and I need you to get it for me." I waited while Eliot rocked himself down from the toilet seat and fumbled with the lock.
I decided not to tell him that once he'd gotten down off the toilet he could have easier got the paper himself. He'll figure it out someday. For now I'll let him need me.