Posted by: alegra22 | June 5, 2011

stripping back

Sol meeting the ocean

I close the door and stand facing Sol. “Come here,” I say. “Let’s hug. It’s been a hard day, hasn’t it?” I pull him to me. His cheek presses awkwardly into my belly, his arms flop to his sides, but his smile is genuine. In the rare moments when an expression of joy moves across his face, I feel like I’ve caught a glimpse behind the veil. My world comes sharply into focus, defined by light and dark. The light bleeds out from the edges the suspicion that there is something I am missing. Those missing elements gather like silhouettes refusing to reveal their details. I imagine that if I can solve the riddle of my son’s spirit, if I can do this motherhood thing just right, the details will reveal themselves as a set of instructions. They’ll show me how to pull aside the veil permanently and meet my son’s smile on the other side.

Sol steps away and looks up at me. The smile is gone. “No hugs today,” he says. “Today I got angry with you.”

“I know. You were angry at a lot of things today.” We both turn to the task at hand – stripping wallpaper from the room that has been his for the last four years. My bones feel soft, barely able to hold me up. My head is full of static from all of the thoughts I’ve had to push to the edges:What if he loses control and seriously hurts Zaviera or Joaquin? What if his anxiety only gets worse…what is going to happen when his body gets bigger, his frustrations more complicated, his anger spreading and spreading through our family? My is tongue exhausted from attempting to form the right words. My heart closed its eyes and pretended to be asleep hours ago. I’ve been on auto-pilot since I glanced up to see Sol smile as Zaviera slipped off her chair and fell backwards on to the hard floor. Again and again, Dan and I say to one another, “He is so precious when it is just him, away from everything else.”

Sol picks at a corner of wet paper and begins to peel, the sweet scent of fabric softener thick in the air.

“I cried when you went in the store and didn’t take me,” he says. “That is why I was angry at you. I was angry because you made me really sad.”

“I know sweetheart. I’m sorry you were so sad but you were fighting with Zaviera and we asked you to stop again and again. It’s not okay to hit her and say mean things to her.”

Sol picks up the spray bottle filled with hot water and begins to soak the wall. A dark patch spreads as he moves methodically in one direction and then the other.

“I cried more than you can even know,” he informs me. I sense the movement of those silhouettes between us. They crowd out the light. They murmur, their breath causing the veil to ripple between us. I want to demand answers. Give me at least a clue…

“I’m sorry you had to cry like that. I know how hard it is for you sometimes. I know how frustrated you get.” Strips of old wall paper surround us. They peel away with a surprising ease. I was nervous about what I might find underneath – what history the previous owners left beneath the paper and paint – but  what we discovered was a clean teal color. On first seeing it, Sol and Zaviera became agitated with excitement. They danced around the room declaring the color magic and then Sol began placing parameters around Zaviera’s joy. He staked claims, dictated territory. Her shoulders slumped.

“Yes, I get angry a lot. It’s because I wish it was just you and me most of the time. Sometimes I don’t like Daddy a lot because he does things that frustrate me. And sometimes I don’t like Joaquin either.  He gets in my stuff and makes a mess. I don’t think babies are very good. But Zaviera I hate all of the time,” he leans forward and tugs at an edge of paper. It peels away in a clean strip. “I like you mostly but sometimes I don’t like you. I didn’t like you today when you made me cry.”

“I understand,” I reach out and pat his shoulder. His body stiffens at my touch and then relaxes. When I was pregnant with Sol, I was afraid of words like these. I thought they would break something in me. Motherhood has taught me that many of things I feared were the things that would give me strength and courage. “But you don’t hate Zaviera all of the time. Sometimes you like her.”

Sol sighs, “No, I hate her all of the time. I never like her.”

As if on cue, Zaviera calls out from the other room, “Sol! Your popcorn is ready!”

“I’ve got to go now,” Sol says, dropping the spray bottle and pushing past me. I stand in the quiet, looking at the strips he’s tossed to the floor for me to clean up. 

Hours later he will come into the bedroom, his body humming with anxiety. He will want to discuss precisely how his popcorn will be distributed when he goes to the movies with his friend tomorrow and what the seating arrangement will be. He flicks the bedspread as he talks. He climbs up and down off the head-board. I don’t bother trying to curb his movement. I just let him talk. I reassure him as best I can. I take my time with the details. When his anxiety is at a low ebb, I direct him to bed and pat his back until he passes out.

Dan and I will lay on the bed, Joaquin asleep between us. I ask, “Are you ready to talk about Sol?” Dan nods, his eyes bloodshot, the strength in his body softening in a way it only does when we discuss our firstborn son. We discuss the anxiety, the way it is becoming more consuming as he gets older. What the future might look like if we don’t address it. We speak honestly about our options. We strip away all of the layers we have been pressing up against the walls of our family because we needed more time, more energy, more…something.

He is six years old,” I say, curling my knees up into my chest, “and he holds so much worry and fear in his small  body. It’s just too much. It isn’t fair to him, it isn’t fair to Zaviera and Joaquin. We’re doing our best, but we have our limitations, too.”

“I know…” Dan sighs and rubs his forehead. I lean back into the pillows. My bones regain their shape. My heart is no longer pretending. My tongue has freed all of those thoughts growing like a tempest in the exiled parts of my mother-mind.

Our feet touch. Joaquin stretches in his sleep. We pray.

I drift in the quiet for a few moments. I allow myself the possibility that beneath these layers, we’ll find something beautiful. A surprise of teal. A parting of the veil. An invitation for my family written in the details that dance somewhere between light and dark.




  1. How pure, how honest and how real. The way you are trying to understand your son is good and true. For some things there is no one answer, the solution shifts with the currents of life. And, sometimes there is no solution, simply more questions. Take time for you. Beautiful piece as always.

  2. Yes, you are doing the best thing you can do, being attentive to the details and through the ebb and flow of his emotions. Have you thought about any kind of therapy? I don’t know much about Asperger’s syndrome but for my own anxiety, I had to learn a simple techique of tapping on different sides of my body. It is supposed to help in a subtle way but for me it makes a very big difference. Maybe lots of reading will also give you perspective about this. But this is beautiful writing as always and I think it’s interesting about the surprising clear color of teal that you discovered under the wallpaper. Sometimes the answers are not at all what you may have anticipated and come out surprisingly beautiful and transforming.

  3. It’s not quite what’s in my heart, but is the closest I can find on hand. I hope it’s close enough – (full lyrics are in the song description)

    • What a beautiful song. Thank you so much xoxoxoox

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