I watched as he carefully tucked his pajamas, Nintendo ds, clothes for the next day and some random toys into the see-through gym bag. He checked and rechecked to make sure he had everything.
“Do you have your toothbrush?” I asked.
“Yep, got it,” he said proudly.
I didn’t want him to go but I knew how excited he was and I didn’t want to take that away from him. He was about to have a sleepover at my sister’s house. Crazy thoughts ran through my mind. What if something happens throughout the night, and I’m not there? What if they are all asleep and he is awake, will he feel safe? Trying not to put scary thoughts into his head, I asked him if he was positive that he wanted to go. I told him I had no problem picking him up at any time if he decided he would rather come home. “Mom, I’m staying over and that’s final.”
I guess he could feel my reservations and was beginning to get annoyed. He didn’t walk down the hallway, he skipped, he was thrilled to be leaving. I envisioned begging, pleading, bribing him not to go but I controlled myself. I took my time getting ready, hoping he would suddenly have a change of mind. I strapped him in his booster seat and we were on our way. I glanced at him through the rearview mirror and a tear came to my eye. He was so happy. His little face filled with light and a smile swept across his mouth as he looked out the window. We pulled up to my sisters; he anxiously waited for her to come out to meet him. He hopped over into the front seat and gave me a giant kiss.
“I love you mommy,” he said before quickly exiting the passenger door.
He walked up the driveway with his backpack swung over his shoulder. His stuffed koala bear hung half way out the front pocket of the bag. The stuffed bear’s head dangled and arms flapped with each bounce my son made. I knew my little boy was getting bigger but he was still young enough to tuck a stuffed animal into his overnight bag and that tugged at my heartstrings. I phoned my sister’s house several times to see if he was showing any signs of changing his mind.
“Not so far,” she assured.
The day turned into night and still he was determined he was going to make it. I was told he already had his pajama’s on and was getting ready to settle down.
“Looks like he’s really staying,” I told my husband.
Before he could respond, the phone was ringing. On the other end was a little voice sounding defeated. “Mom, I think I want to come home.”
I tried not to sound too happy but I was. I was back in the driveway waiting for him to come out. When he emerged this time, there was no skipping, only feet dragging. The smile disappeared and was replaced by a cheerless frown. As delighted as I was that he was coming home I also felt disappointment for him. I knew he wanted so bad to make it through the night and was mad at himself for calling. When I turned to ask him if he was okay, I saw him holding his koala tightly to his chest. To him the night was a failure. To me it was a memory, an image, a snapshot of innocence. For when I am old and he is a man, I will remember the little boy clutching onto his koala bear and I am sure I will wish for us both to be young again.