It's good that we went away now, because Fin's till too young to voice any objections." My dearest wife Deirdre, whose devotion to our son is a constant lesson to me, had done it again. She has a gift for putting things wrongly. Once, describing a large papier mâché dragon i had built for a college dance to her friend Kathy, she burst out with, "It's gigantic! It's huge! It's — bigger than you!" Every girl's dream — to be a reference for comparisons of enormity. During our courtships, when I told her I thought she was an excellent woman, she replied, "Ditto."
What she meant this time was that Fin was young enough that being abandoned by his parents for three nights would not leave scars on his psyche. He is still easily distracted, even in mourning. The occasion of his abandonment was a sort of delayed honeymoon — we spent two lovely days in Bungalow 3 at La Valencia after getting married, but since La Valencia was 20 minutes from home, it didn't have the "getting away" feel that Deirdre wanted. So, two years later, we made plans to leave Fin with my parents; my brother and sister-in-law, Mark and Lisa; and their two daughters, Monica and Kate, and to stay at a couple of inns in upstate New York.
Our honeymoon was set for the the end of our visit to New York, so that Fin would have a chance to get settled before being left. Those first mornings with Monica and Kate were bliss for Fin. In the gray early hours, as soon as he finished the happy trek down the stairs (an event in itself for a single-story California boy like him), his cousins greeted him with shouts of joy, and Monica presented him with a basket of toys. Stunned and drowsy, he turned to Mama — "Is this okay? May accept their adulation, their offering?"
Soft came the reply, "Yes, my child, you may accept it; it is your due as the Young Cousin from the West. Long have they awaited your arrival. How often has Monica said to her mother, 'How my heart leaps in anticipation, now that the day of Finian's visitation is not far off'? Receive their hospitality with grace, just as they will one day receive yours, as you welcome them into the somewhat sunnier San Diego morning."
That honeymoon was over the first few mornings, and squabbles for toys erupted as Fin's newness wore off and two-year-old Kate began to relish her newfound position of power. Here was someone from whom she could wrest toys after they had been endowed with the glow of another child's interest.
During one such squabble, four-year-old Monica took the occasion to practice mothering. Grabbing a pilfered toy from Kate, she scolded, "Kate, I told you not to take Fin's toys! Now you'll have to go and sit in the chair!" Kate, chastised and frowning, shuffled over and sat in the chair. Monica approached her, begin repeating her admonition, then gave in to maternal affection. She dropped her tone to a more comforting level — "Kate, now listen to me...." The imitation of Mommy was flawless
We left on a Thursday. That night, he slept with my mom. When he woke up in the wee hours, she brought him downstairs, gave him some milk, then carried him back upstairs and rubbed his back until he fell asleep. Near painless. The next day, Mom and Lisa heard a strange cry coming from the front hallway — not a pain cry, not a frustrated scream, but a wailing lamentation. Finian had found our wedding picture on the small table in the hall, taken it down, and was now sitting, bent over it, crying and saying, "Mommy. Da."
Mom hid the picture, so as not to remind Fin of his treacherous parents. After that, he walked to the place where the picture used to stand, noted its absence, was thus reminded of our absence, and cried again. Mom didn't tell us about this until we got home; we would have been too heartbroken to stay away.
But Fin is easily distracted, easily consoled. He found comfort in food. The family was out for lunch, and the boy feasted upon his grandmother's sandwich. He dug into pumpernickel bread, moved on to the turkey beneath, and scarfed the entire pickle. As he neared the pickle's end, exhaustion overtook him but he pressed on. According to some, he took his last bites in somnibus.
He found comfort in his aunt Lisa, following her around, searching her out. And he found comfort in the sympathy of his grandparents. Just hearing Grandmother say, "You miss your Mommy, don't you?" helped him. After we had been gone for two days, he began searching for us. He would peer into an upstairs room, eyes wide with expectation. But, alas, no parents, and he would start to winge and whine. Pappy (Grandpa) to the rescue. He scooped Fin up and carried him from room to room asking, "Are they in here? No, they're not in here." By the time they finished their search, Fin was mollified.
Our reunion was a little rocky — Fin was asleep when we returned and cranky upon waking. He was extra clingy for a couple of days, which wasn't too surprising. But those last days back East did provide us with one last story.
Finian and Monica were taking a bath together. My mom came into the bathroom, and Monica said to her, "Look at what Fin has sticking out." Then, standing and drawing herself up to her full height, she proclaimed, "I have a perfect bottom. I'm glad I don't stick out." When Dad heard this, he cited it as evidence against Freud's theory of penis envy, the feminine feeling of inferiority because something is missing.
I am glad Monica is secure in her girlhood. I am also glad she has a sister to share it with. Watching Finian with his friends Evelyn and Augustine in San Diego, and his cousins in New York, seeing how happy it makes him to be with other small children, it becomes clear that it is time for a sibling.