The Soggy Smell of Success (#430)

Some food flew tonight, but not (as was the case a month or so ago) by Charlie’s hand. Charlie, in fact, was sound asleep—I was opening a container of soup that I had not finished at dinner; the bottom of the container was broken and next thing I knew, there was a milky white mess on the floor.
I had not gotten around to finishing the soup because, after Charlie had eaten his fish and French fries, and we had asked him if he’d like to ride the ferris wheel, Charlie had said,


It was a quarter after seven and still daylight. Charlie ran upstairs, donned his pajamas, and started to cry. And scream. And howl. Really ear-splittingly loud. He had tucked himself into bed with his blue blanket wrapped around his legs like a sleeping bag and then he started back-arching and writhing and wriggling, all while screaming.

Jim and I looked at each other, lips pursed and out came the pictures and some selected phrases: “We’ll be back, we go home tomorrow but we’ll always come back to the beach house.” Charlie ran downstairs and hollered on the couch. Charlie ran back upstairs and rolled around tearily on his bed.

He had been a few shades more serious today as we went through what has become our routine at the beach house: “White rice for breakfast (“I’m ready eat pot” Charlie had told me); a long morning swim in gigantic waves—Charlie has been swimming best when the waves are that big; a treat of sushi for lunch; an afternoon of boogie-boarding and body-surfing with Jim near by. We had also gotten in a trip to the toy store: At first, Charlie stood by the store as I pulled out things to show him (while noting how another child wheedled his mother for a $5.99 toy and thinking how I would pay twice or thrice as much if Charlie asked for something). Then he started to pace amid the aisles and even to look at the shelves, and played with a set of “Dino Links” I chose. Charlie could hardly wait to go on a bike ride with Jim just before dinner.
Charlie was riding strong and beaming—he has not been riding his own bike, but one big enough for me and he has adjusted well—and Jim had taken him by a pier with a view of the setting sun from the bay. One moment Charlie was pedaling alongside Jim, next thing Charlie was zooming in the opposite direction with a car coming up the street and Jim in furious pursuit. Jim stopped Charlie before he got to a busy boulevard and they pedaled across towards the ocean and Charlie calmed some, but started to say “eat fish” over and over again. He waited patiently enough for dinner and then something in him erupted—clashed—the thought of leaving what he loves.

Jim and I rode out the storm in the beach house: While Charlie’s screeches could be heard up and down the street, this was the the worst that happened. Last year, Charlie screamed non-stop for two days about leaving and we had to watch where swung his head; he was hoarse by the time we drove away. Jim and I took turns sitting with him and then, at my mention of “maybe you could walk around downstairs,” Charlie looked up at me from his bed and ran to get his sandals. “You need to put on clothes first, don’t you?” we asked. “C’ose,” said Charlie and took off his pajamas, pulled on a shirt and shorts, sat on his bed.
I had to say “I love you” and give him a hug, which he squirmed away from. Then, a minute and a half later,

“Ee wuff yoo! Ee wuff yoo!” Sniff.

We went to ride the ferris wheel with a partially smiling boy. Too many rides have made Charlie more and more agitated in the past—-he becomes more and more worried that each ride will be the last one, and has ended up enjoying none—-and we told him we would do a set number. Charlie was very serious on the sea dragon and merry-go-round, and left smiling and holding both of our hands, and fell asleep within five minutes of getting retucked in bed.

Then I spilled my soup.

It took several paper towels to mop it up, but each bore the (rather soggy) scent of success of Charlie’s 2006 vacation at the Jersey shore.


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