He puts his chin up and saunters away from me, one arm in the air, making a flippant remark.
“Harry, don’t talk to me like that.”
He whirls, shoots me a glance, flits back to me to plant a juicy kiss right on my lips. Then flutters off again.
I have a sprite for a child. Since the minute he was born it he had a twinkle in his eye, magic in those pointed ears, and mischief in his strawberry curls. I shouldn’t have had another baby, it’s true. It was a rash decision made on the fairy hills of the Isle of Skye, thoughts of miscarriages and postpartum depression and anxiety far far away. But for the last three years we’ve had a creature so filled with effortless humor, devilish cacophony, and stalwart love I have to admit he was a good whim.
When Harry started preschool his teachers told me he was the sweetest boy. I didn’t believe them. I made some quip about how they were just being nice, but they were adamant. I thought, uh oh. Harry must be working on the long con. He hates going to preschool!
What was he up to?
Today I got an email from his teacher that he’s been trying to dig under the fence of the playground. I pictured a network of tunnels spanning under the school, the few blocks under the neighborhood, and back to our own yard. Playing nice so nobody suspects…that’s more like the boy I know.
Today I was using glitter to make some ornaments and Harry was getting a light dusting of gold glitter on his hands. He asked me, in all seriousness, “am I going to turn into a fairy?” At times I think he may be possessed by the fairy Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but I told him no.
Harry is very stubborn, and very precise. And must. have. his. own. way. He prefers to be called Harry Arthur, and reprimands anyone who calls him something else. He’ll still let the occasional ‘honeybee’ or ‘sweatpea’ slip from my lips, but I am the only one who gets to use pet names for him. (See how he has me wrapped around his little finger?)
Harry is hilarious. Finn is happy and loyal, Oliver is precious and moody, and Harry is FUNNY. He revels in naughty shenanigans, potty talk, and silly faces. He can get away with anything because two minutes into disciplining him I’m giggling. …Or so exasperated by his fight and flight reflexes I can’t keep up. (I swear he can fly for how easily he jumps over the furniture and flips into a somersault.)
When Harry was one year old we were on a family vacation eating a big meal by the lake. I hadn’t thought about the children for a while, they were eating at a different table, and I assumed the grandparents or Beau had an eye on them. Every parent knows that feeling like your chest is suddenly vacuum sealed, your heart crushed, the air expunged from your lungs. “Where’s Harry? I don’t see him. He was here a second ago…”
I looked down toward the lake. Little Harry had walked out onto the dock by himself. If he had fallen in the water nobody would have seen, and I would not have made it in time. I happened to look and there he was, his tiny sweatpants, his clenched fists, his determined saunter out toward the water…
There are times when Harry exasperates me, when those four hours of preschool are the best hours of the day, when living with a sprite is just as ridiculous as it sounds. But that moment on the dock…it crops up in my memory like a bur stuck to a sweater, hanging on to plant itself in my thoughts years later. I’ll be snuggling those mess of curls in my arms and stop breathing, heart racing, frantic… I can’t imagine life without him.