Hank: I slept okay. It’s weird, on Sundays or the day before I have to go back to school like yesterday after ferias (vacation) I get this feeling. I don’t know, I’m weird I guess.
Me: What kind of feeling? Like kinda nervous, but kinda not?
Me: That isn’t weird, buddy, that is called anticipation. Everyone feels anticipation.
Hank: Oh, good to know I am not alone.
Me: (smiling) Not in the least.
Hank: (pleased sigh, goes back to collecting cherries in his video game)
Me: (sitting down next to him with my coffee, looking out the window at the dawn) Do you hear that?
Hank: (looking up) What?
Me: The birds? Those are robins telling us it is spring.
Hank: I thought spring wasn’t until March.
Me: Often we can rely on nature to tell us differently. Birds don’t have calendars.
Hank: You’re right, I don’t remember hearing a bird like that last week.
Me: That is because last week was still winter. (pulling my phone out of the pocket of my robe to read the newspaper, gasp and burst into sudden, hot, intense tears)
Me: (tears streaming down my cheeks) Hank, I have to turn on the news.
Hank: Mom, what happened? (getting up to turn on the TV and bring over the remote)
Me: 17 people died at a school yesterday.
Hank: Another school shooting?
Me: (crying, nodding)
Hank: Oh my god. I am so sorry.
Me: Can you go into the kitchen for just five minutes and play your game in there?
Hank: No, I want to see the news.
Me: Buddy, the visual news will be graphic. Here (handing him my phone) take my phone and read the news article.
Hank: No, mom, it’s okay. I will stay with you. I want to see what happened and hold everyone in my heart.
Me: I don’t want you to be frightened.
Hank: I don’t have to be frightened. You and Pai brought me to Portugal so that I don’t have to be frightened of these things. School shootings don’t happen here and even if one did we don’t have any war weapons in Portugal.
Hank: (holding my hand)
Me: (bear witness)
Hank: Oh no, they filmed it. They’re so scared, mom.
Me: (weeping) They called their moms.
Hank: I would do that. I would call you.
Me: (weeping) Please, don’t watch.
Hank: It’s okay, mom.
Me: It is most certainly not okay. (holding every single member of that school community in my heart)
Hank: Maybe this will change things. Maybe this shooting will be the reason things change.
Me: (walking, seemingly aimless around the house, holding up signs)
Hank: (finding me in the hallway) Mom, are you okay?
Hank: (curiosity peeked) What are you doing?
Me: Trying to find a place to hang these signs.
Me: Because I want them in plain view, in a place to be seen often and I’m walking around the house looking to find just the right spot.
Hank: What about here in the hallway, under The Beach Painting?
Me: No one spends time in the hallway. It is a thoroughfare.
Hank: (admiring the painting) I do. I love this painting.
Me: You do? Tell me why you love it.
Hank: Because it reminds me of me, but I know it isn’t me because it has always been here and I have not always been this big.
Hank: And the boy in the painting is doing my favorite thing in the world.
Me: Is that right?
Hank: Yes, he’s climbing on these rocks by the sea and I love to climb on rocks by the sea.
Me: You do. The person in that painting isn’t a boy, though.
Hank: It could be anyone. That is why I like it.
Me: Could it?
Hank: You could hang your sign here, right under the painting and I would see it.
Hank: Who is the person in the painting, mom?
Me: Jeni, Iris and Bill’s daughter.
Hank: Oh, your best friend when you were young.
Me: Yes. Your uncle Jō painted this for me from a photograph I took of her. He literally stole the photo from my apartment to paint the painting then he gave them both back to me. This was a very special day and how I always like to think of her.
Hank: I love this painting.
Me: I will tell your uncle Jō.
Hank: Are you going to hang your sign here?
Me: No, I don’t think so.
Hank: You will find the right place.
Me: (wistful) Thanks, buddy.
Hank: (leaving then turning back) You miss her?
Me: (still standing in front of the painting, lost in thought) Yes.
Hank: Good thing you have the painting and you always carry her in your heart.
Me: I do.
Hank: She died, didn’t she mom.
Me: She did, yes.
Hank: I love the painting more now.
Me: Do you?
Hank: Before I made the painting about me, but now it’s like I’ve met her and I know we both like to climb on rocks by the sea.
Me: That’s a lovely thought.
Hank: Do you want help with your signs, mom?
Me: (having forgotten all about my silly motivational signs) Um…
Hank: Hang one in your office where we all work accept Molly since she’s only two and hang one… here on the bookshelf door by the kitchen. We all pass by here everyday. I promise I will see it. Did you make these signs for me?
Me: Yes, I thought these ten things were a good anchor to keep you grounded as you’re growing up so fast. When I was young whenever I left my mother’s side she would always remind me to be kind.
Hank: And you are kind. Everyone says that.
Me: Well, her wish for me stuck.
Hank: I’ll go get you some tape to hang your signs, okay?
Me: Sure, thanks buddy. (still standing in front of The Beach Painting realizing it has been 22 years since we stood on that beach and 22 years since she left us)
Hank: (calling from the kitchen, breaking the spell) Mom, I can’t reach the tape plus papa’s exercise machine is in front of the shelf and you told me not to mess with the machine so I can’t help you unless you help me first. (literally saying the word “hashtag” before each phrase) #imtooshort #timeforagymmembershippapa
Me: (side smile, walking away from the past and into the present) #momlife
Me: Fair warning, I am incrediably emotional. This is emotional cooking. I am on the verge of tears at any moment. This was my favorite food when I was a kid before I stopped eating meat all together. Meatball subs with melty, melty cheese. Made possible by papa.
Pai: What did I do?
Me: You bought me a crock pot and you bought a bag of frozen meat balls and American hot dog buns while we were sick with the flu. These are things I would have never done.
Me: So sad about the fire. I was on social media for all of twelve seconds today and there were a flood of photos of (voice cracking) families with small children who were on ferias (vacation) in the area who are still missing. Then the news started reporting… (shaking off a wave of grief)
Me: You aren’t addicted. You are obsessed. There is a clear difference.
Pai: An addiction is something that you emotionally and often times physically can’t live without. You start out only needing manageable doses but rather quickly with an addiction you need more and more and it is never enough. If you were addicted to Eurovision you would start with one hour, but then you would find you weren’t satisfied so then you would find yourself watching two hours, then three, then four but you still wouldn’t be satisfied. This is why an addiction is so damaging. You need so much of a thing that you would go to any length to get your fix of the addiction.
Me: You have obsessions, Hank. You always have. Your first obsession was Elmo, then cars…
Pai: Cars was a long obsession.
Hank: I still love cars.
Me: Then it was stop animation and Play Mobil, then…
Me: YES! I almost forgot about Minecraft. And then it was YouTube in general and now it is Eurovision.
Hank: I didn’t know I was like that. Is it bad?
Pai: Not at all.
Me: It just shows you are passionately interested in things. There is nothing wrong with that.
Pai: And maybe with Eurovision and your love of The Weather Girls we can help you become passionately interested in Music from the late 70’s and early 80’s.
Me: OH fun! I bet Hank would like Roxy Music and maybe Donna Summers and my favorite…