Rustling sounds from the freezer meant that Charlie was poking around for some dinner. He had just run into the kitchen after a high-energy therapy session of matching, coloring (in his scrawling way), calling out for "green apple" and "I wahn' moo-sic, Gingerbread Boy!" and "spider, eesey weesey spider!" I heard stomping and a certain giggle that meant that Charlie was teasing the therapist who responded with a laugh in her voice. Charlie pulled a bag of frozen hamburgers from the freezer; I said good-bye to her. When I turned around, Charlie was in his usual seat at the kitchen table.
"Where's the burgers?" I asked, noting some loose pieces of saran wrap beside the bag that, I was positive, had contained four frozen hamburgers, not the two on the table. "Burgers," said Charlie, who had helped himself to a Scooby Doo plate from the cabinet. "Knife fork." He got up to retrieve these items as a thought occurred to me. Charlie always watches me cooking with especial attention and, yesterday, he had been careful to plop two hot dogs into a pot of water heating on the stove as I watched. I checked a pot of water I was heating to make him some noodles and, sure enough, saw two hamburgers.
Suspecting that boiled hamburger would not be too appetizing, I poured out the water and cooked the two burgers, Charlie watching all the while. "I want burger. I want cut eat burger," he said, all eyes. "Do you still want some brown noodles, too?" I asked as he ate. "Yesss." "And then we can go swimming?" "Swimpool! Yesss."
When we got to our town's indoor pool, Charlie--no doubt buoyed by some bright-toned "power pop" on the CD player--jumped up and down in his seat; the black car rocked and rolled, a bit. Cars lined the driveway and filled the parking lot: "Charlie! Must be a football game," I said. We found the last space and Charlie ran in past small packs of teenage girls for whom the game was more a social than sporting event. Once inside the pool, he got a yellow fun noodle, cast it into the water, and jumped in. He hopped around in the swallow end; I gently urged him into a lane with me and we did a few laps, Charlie flipping onto his back and stretching out his arms, bobbing and resting on the surface of the water.
I finished my lap before Charlie and, standing in the swallow end, said hi to a man and his son who we see from time to time. "He's really grown," I said to the man of his son, who was nearly as tall as his father. He was dark-haired and dark-eyed, with a bright smile. "He has," said the man and directed his son to say "hi" to me and, in response to my question of "how old are you?", prompted his son with "thir--thir---." "Teen," said the son. "Yeah, thirteen," the dad smiled as his son, scuba goggles donned, dove under the water. He held up his hands about two feet from each other. "I wish a lot he were this big again." Our eyes floated towards Charlie, who was amusing himself in the deep end. "He's gotten bigger, too. Filled out," said the man. "Yeah, he's going to be big too," I smiled. "So how's it going?" he asked. We exchanged war stories, educational experiences, detailed our children's current placements. I did not hesitate to ask a few "So why isn't he there anymore---" and "what do you think of----" type questions.
"Hot showa." Charlie was climbing the ladder out of the pool and we said good night and good bye. It was almost 9pm by the time we got home and greeted a tired Jim, who had stayed late at his office to work on his book. "Hey pal," he smiled at Charlie, who ran to see if the green car was back in the driveway. Suddenly Charlie was moaning out "Gong Gong Po Po all done, done!" and running up and down the living room frantically. "I want peas! Appo waffle. I want! Geen apple! Peas!" I remembered how he had yawned in the shower. "Maybe bedtime soon?" I asked. "NOOOOO!" was the response with various cries. Charlie ended up on the blue and white couch, kicking furiously.
Jim and I exchanged glances. "Dad's going to go have something to eat," Jim announced and went to the kitchen. I sat beside Charlie, got up, picked up a small guitar my parents had given to him two Christmases ago. Charlie reached right for it and immediately began plucking, picking, strumming, the strings and tapping the shiney wood. "Sounds good," Jim called out. "The next Segovia," I said, leaning back on the couch. "Charlie, I love it!" Strum and pick.
I had noted the dust on the guitar case when I put it in the back seat of the black car this morning. My mom had ordered it from a catalogue when, more than two years ago, Charlie had shown some momentary glimmer of interest in a music teacher's guitar. I spent the better part of my girlhood practicing piano and watching for the conductor of the youth orchestra in which I played the viola, but I did not even know what notes each of the guitar's strings were until today, when I asked a student (who had mentioned he teaches guitar) if he had a moment and could tune Charlie's.
"Sure," the student had said. He twisted the pegs and strummed and then was playing a melody. "You can try this--" he said and I was jotting down notes for Charlie's first guitar lesson. I explained how I had not wanted to have Charlie playing the instrument without getting it properly tuned. "He has a good ear, I think he sings on pitch," I said. "I could show him some things," said the student, playing something. He showed me how to use one's thumb and various fingers to pick at the strings. "Now I don't want to go to class!" he added, and played a short melody.
I could not begin to thank him and certainly not after Charlie serenaded Jim and me with his pizzicato, with his own strums and picks on that little guitar. I think he played for almost a half-hour before setting the guitar down and stretching out, wrapped in his blue blanket, beside me. "Goo night, bedtime," said Charlie, and Jim piggy-backed him up, and I followed with the blanket and, courtesy of Charlie's restless fingers, a new melody echoing in my ear.