Last night at public skate, Stitch brought his own copy of some Michael Jackson songs. Some old friends and new friends showed up, I sat in the stands to talk, looking up to watch Stitch dance and play. He kept watching me to watch for him, jumping his new jump and doing his new moves.
I got absorbed in the debate over the fit of some child's skates, looking up in time to see Stitch hop from one foot to the other, but trip on a toepick and take a hard dive on his chest. I could see what happened; he'd gotten the wind knocked out of him again, his mouth open and his eyes full of that momentary terror. I stood up, flashing my "OK" sign and when it wasn't returned I moved to the ice door. Stitch looked at me, mad as hell, his face red and tears in his eyes. He motioned for me to STAY PUT.
I sat down, my friend asking if he was all right. "I think so, but he's crying."
"He's still putting on a show for us."
"He is, but he's crying."
Stitch was still skating; spinning and lunging, fighting back his tears.
Friend shrugged. "He's all right."
And Stitch was. After awhile, he got over it. He came off the ice awhile later, still mad.
"Stitch, what's wrong? Are you okay? Do you hurt anywhere?"
He glared at me. "I'm fine."
"Then why are you mad?"
"Because when you're at a theatre, and someone falls, do you do this?" he made my "OK" sign. "No! You don't! That ruined my show! Don't do that!"
"Stitch, I'm your mom. I'm going to worry about you every time you fall; on the ice, on the playground, at home, everywhere. That's my job. I only do OK because you can't hear me out there, you know that. I just need to know that you're all right."
Stitch was mad for awhile longer, but went back onto the ice. Before too long he was smiling and playing with his friends again.
It even happened again, the same accident in the same way, and this time Stitch got up, flashed "OK" at me and kept going. I didn't even have to get up. As it turns out, I even missed a hard fall during lessons that day. It happened while I was in the lobby getting coffee, and I was sorely reprimanded in the car ride home. That night I felt his knees for bruises and his feet for blisters. His knees were dry, and I caught a red patch on his ankle from where the top of his boot had rubbed too much. He rolled his eyes at me as I put lotion and Neosporin on him. "This is my job," I said.
Little boys stop being little so fast. A few nights ago we were looking through the old baby pictures. "Remember the squirrel we took in?" I pointed to a picture. "That was the first one."
"What happened to him?"
"He was just a baby. We kept him for a few days until I could get him to an animal sanctuary. They let him go when he was old enough." That one was wandering aimlessly around a playground and balled between my feet. I picked him up and carried him home, where we fed him puppy milk to get him through those days.
"What about that other one?"
I found that one on the ground during a bad storm, sitting, soaked and growling at the world. "That one was just stunned after he fell out of his tree. He was fine after a few hours. I just let him go." Yes, that squirrel was fine, jumping around in the animal carrier I was keeping him in. I had to hold it at arm's length and dump it upside down for fear of him jumping out and back at me. Wild animals don't have much thought for a good Samaritan.
"Why couldn't we keep them?" Stitch asked. "They were cute."
"They were. But they didn't belong to us."
Ultimately, Stitch doesn't belong to us, either.