After posting about permanence and change on a really cold Sunday morning I got on my yellow bike (Charlie's bike when he was about 10) and rode to meet Jim and Charlie at the bank parking lot where he's been doing the Socrates/Roshi staying-still thing. I had on four layers but as it was -3 Celsius (approximately 26.6 degrees Fahrenheit) with the wind blowing, and we were there for an hour and a half, it got cold.
Yes, an hour and a half. Charlie refused to budge. He was only wearing that same bright blue shirt (short-sleeves) and a light blue shirt (long sleeves) so he had to have been way, way colder than his two freezing parents.
We stood. Jim rode in circles. I checked several news sites on my phone. People came to use the ATM and, as far as can be told through a windshield, rolled their eyes. Charlie said No. No home. No jacket. No. No. No.
After an hour and fifteen minutes, I stood too close to him (maternal instinct, you know) and when he said 'jacket' after I said 'jacket' -- after refusing said item for weeks -- we knew he knew he was cold but had no idea how to get out of the situation.
Finally, at Jim's suggestion, I went home to get the white car. As I was driving back, I saw a light-blue figure moving slowly towards me.
Needless to say, we rushed Charlie inside. It was 15 minutes before he could take off his helmet the way he likes to (a boy of rituals maintains such even with frozen fingers). He took off the bright blue shirt, put the long-sleeved one back on and, after the mention of hot food, even put on the jacket (a heavy, deep blue hoodie). We all got in the black car and got Charlie his beloved brown noodles and white rice, which he ate efficiently.
He spent an hour pacing at home then went to lie down, sleeping from 4pm till 6am.
(Jim and I both got a ton of work done.)
Every day since there have been 'what's going to go on with the blue shirt' exchanges. Monday, Jim's train was (a rather routine occurrence, actually) delayed. Charlie put on the blue shirt and much anxiety had developed when Jim came home after dark. An hour later, Charlie took off the blue shirt, put on a long-sleeved shirt and was glad to get a hamburger in the white car.
Tuesday, Charlie put on the bright blue shirt when he came home and changed 15 minutes after into a long-sleeved one and the blue jacket. Off he and Jim went on a literally dark and stormy evening on which Charlie decided they were bikine to the hamburger stand which is about 8 miles away. They did get there after yet another epic ride-in-the-rain (not a drizzle, either), choice words from Jersey motorists one of whome went to all the trouble to roll down his window to air his views about cyclists, and Charlie walking his bike some distances. Jim texted me to meet them at the hamburger place and the photo at the top of this post is the sight I saw when I therein entered.
Wednesday Charlie put on the bright blue shirt after getting home off the bus at 1.45 pm (he'd had a half-day at school due to Thanksgiving) and adamantly refused to change it for over two hours. We told him, it being rainy and gray, it wasn't a great bike ride day anyways. He put on his helmet and gloves and strap. He pushed the shed key towards my hand. There were some tears. Dinnertiem approaching, he took off the bike gear and, having left the bright blue shirt on the floor, got an early celebratory start to Thanksgiving with another round of brown noodles.
The rest of the night he was plunged into nervousness for some hours. Quite aware that it is Thanksgiving and a holiday, Charlie called for my mom and dad and deleted all the music on his iPad. He had done the latter the night before and waited patiently as I took an hour to get all his music onto the laptop I just got in October (in August, Charlie had emptied the bag with my previous laptop in it on the floor; Jim does better stashing his laptop when things start flying through the air). Wednesday night, the reloading and syncing process was a lot faster and, the familiar rows of Beatles, Disney, Barney, REM and a little Keith Jarrett restored, Charlie came downstairs and paced the night away, until almost 1am. He was smiling and seemed pleased about things.
The bright blue shirt is sure to remain an object of contention, dispute and negotiation (in a rather non-verbal way; long strings of words and argument have little bearing on Charlie) in these four days of Thanksgiving break. We could, as we have previously done when Charlie became overly attached to items of clothing (a green shirt and brown pants, a blue sweatshirt), put them in the garbage and be done with it. That admittedly harsh and disruptive end to items that are clearly important in Charlie's sense of cosmic order has always seemed, while parentally understandable, not the best way to teach Charlie about how to deal with change and with things that mean something to him. So far, he's been managing not to have any major behavior storms (the ones that come with objects flying, a new dent in the collection the walls already bear).
As for why Charlie got so attached to this one blue shirt. I only have hunches:
He wore it on the last day of a fabulous six weeks at summer school.
It's a brilliant teal turquoise color. It could make one think of oceans.