On certain days, days that seem to occur all too frequently lately, I’d like to wear my sunglasses all the time. Day or night, sunshine or rain, inside or outside. My sunglasses are a secret identity, a cape, a mask, and a sign that reads “Don’t talk to me. I’m intimidating. Reeeeeeaaaally intimidating.” Wearing my sunglasses, the garage door is locked, the lights are off, and I am hiding upstairs in my bedroom, wallowing in a safe, sad bubble, hoping whoever rings the doorbell will just go away.
With my sunglasses on, I can be a lady on her way back from the eye doctor after a friendly, afternoon dilation. Or hey, maybe I’m just hung over.
With my sunglasses on, I am not the lady that’s been crying in her car for an hour before walking into her son’s school because he had a cluster of seizures that morning and “you need to come now or we’ll have to call 911.” I am not the woman with under-eye circles so purple and permanent as to thrill the make-up counter ladies to offer her an “incredible deal on the best new eye cream!” I am not the person that runs a mental calculus every morning about what time it is and what time did James wake up and has he had his medicines. I am not so tired.
But there always comes a point, as it did earlier this week, in James’ classroom with his sweet teachers and sweeter classmates, that I have to take them off. No one has ever said anything to me or asked me to take them off, but eventually I feel like I have no other choice. (And no, it’s not because I’m afraid of looking weird. Or people thinking I look weird. We know this.)
I walked into his classroom after they said he was having seizures and I needed to come right away. Seizures aren’t new for us at the Family Fly, but this sounded like something different. Everyone at the school was worried, and I was worried, and Mr. Fly was so worried that he left work without telling me he was doing it and drove straight to the school as fast as he could. And I cried the whole way there, and I was sad, and I was angry about why this was happening to us–Am sad and angry, although it’s hard to hold on to that level of emotion all day long. And I wore my sunglasses, and they made me feel better. Because I thought no one could see my sad and angry.
The mask may may have worked on the strangers I passed in the church parking lot where James’ school is house, and it may have worked on the church ladies preparing the fellowship hall lunch (“Does that young lady have an eye infection like that poor Bob Costas?”). Once I walked into the classroom, however, their magic stopped working.
I saw James, and he looked at me and said, “Mama.” It’s the only word he can say, but if he’s going to have just one, it’s a good one. To James, I will always be Mama– there is no mask, no cape, no secret identity that can change that. And he sees me, and smiles, and says “Mama.” This is his word, no matter how dark and puffy my eyes are and no matter how much I cry.
The other children in the classroom love a visitor and I soon found myself in a swarm of little people with sticky hands and feet wearing colored orthotics decorated with sports themes, rainbows, and hearts. (James has blue fish on his– I can never decide if a colorful design on a medical device like AFOs (the orthotics a lot of special needs kids wear to help stabilize their ankles) is adorable or depressing. Both, I suppose.) One of my favorite little girls in the class, Katie,* peered up at me and gave me one of her trademark hugs.
And with James’ “Ma-ma,” and that hug, and the children playing around me, I no longer wanted to be zipped up in that sad and angry bubble by myself. I took the sunglasses off. Only then could I really see the children playing, the easter art projects they’d made the day before, and have a real conversation with his teachers.
Seizures are terrifying and unpredictable and watching one happen in someone you love is like watching them possessed by something evil and foreign. But they end, and your person comes back to you, and he calls you “Mama.” No matter how appealing pulling the shades down on the world feels so much of the time, when you are locked inside yourself, you miss the good stuff too.
I don’t plan on getting rid of my sunglasses anytime soon. (For one, they make an awesome headband. And two, they are really cute sunglasses.) But I will try not to wear them inside so much. There’s so much fun that I’d miss if I was alone in that sad bubble.
*Names of children other than my own have been changed to protect their privacy.
As those of you that have visited me here before well know, Messy Beautiful could practically be the title of this blog. Well, Messy
Beautiful Reasonably Attractive You Wouldn’t Recoil From Us or something of that nature. But anyway, this essay is part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project.
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