The clouds of June staged a battle with the sun and lost. The inevitable power of the equinox sent the chill of the previous days into exile until their time to reign arrived in the proper season. It seemed ironic to savor the steaming cup of coffee I brewed on such a hot, cloudless morning. It was finished hastily and accompanied by a shower conducted in similar fashion. Connor was waiting.
He was at the front door and bolted out before I could reach him. He skipped across drawings of cats and messages to Mom and Dad created in sidewalk chalk. I asked Connor what he wanted to do that morning knowing adventure awaited. He is not capable of having an ordinary day.
He asked for cheeseburgers, a balloon, and Lowe’s. McDonald’s was first followed by Lowe’s. I needed mulch for the backyard and Connor knew they had blue Gatorade in the refrigerator in the garden center. I loaded the cart to capacity until I could barely push it. Once again I wished Connor would use his powerful strength for an activity I found useful. His hands were otherwise occupied holding two bottles of Gatorade.
I fumbled for keys in a disorganized purse after loading the van with bags of wood chips and earth it seemed suddenly foolish to purchase. They were missing. I dumped the contents of my bag onto the parking lot in search of my rogue keys. Connor was impatient for air conditioning and a seat to drink his Gatorade. He reached through the partially open window to unlock the door. The car alarm went off with honking and flashing lights. Connor flung his hands to his ears. I froze momentarily as my brain replayed similar episodes of sensory overload with my son. When he younger, observers attributed Connor’s behaviors to my poor parenting skills. At sixteen, he is perceived as a violent male aggressor in a parking lot. Stun guns, pepper spray, and police pistols recur in my nightmares.
Connor groaned in pain as he covered his ears and I was remotely aware of a loud speaker announcing a security alert in the garden center lot. Without warning, he began to recite species of fish.
“Swordfish, Sunfish, Tuna Fish, Gold Fish, Shark…..”
His hands still covered his ears, but his loud monotone recitation calmed him. I told we would go back into the store, find our keys, and leave. I began to scan the ground as I retraced our path. Connor held my hand.
“Trout, Star Fish, Minnow…..”
I asked a woman standing by the mulch if she had noticed keys on the ground. She continued to stare at the bloated bags stacked before her as if we were invisible and the recitation of fish behind her inaudible. I found the keys in the back of the store on the concrete by the pea gravel. We turned off the alarm and Connor turned on the AC and the radio as he popped the caps on both Gatorades. I was impressed over his improvised coping skills and told him I was proud. I learned a lot about fish. He laughed at me and asked for a balloon.
I held my keys securely as we stopped at the closest Dollar Store for the coveted balloon. He found one as well as a package of Sweet-Tarts and we left without incident. I am familiar with this routine. As soon as we made our exit, Connor extended his right arm which held the balloon’s ribbon loosely entwined in his fingers. He let it slip through and it lifted into a perfect summer sky. People watching felt badly we had lost our balloon. They don’t know we have discovered the secret joy in letting go.