This morning he woke up early. He ate breakfast at the table with his sister. He played with his car tracks, fought with his sister, made up with his sister, snuggled on the couch with his sister. He stayed in his pajamas past eleven, dressed himself in plaid pants and a blue shirt, waited for his dad to take him to the car museum, to watch the ball track, which they did for half the day.
We talked about his birthday cupcakes, the flavor(s) he wanted for school, which he had to repeat twice because I wasn't listening, distracted by the hiss coming through the hole in his smile, missing space from the tooth he lost last week.
I accidentally cried in front of him when he showed me it was loose.
"Don't worry, mom. It doesn't hurt," he said, but it did for me. Because his baby was literally falling out of him. Because I remembered so well when those teeth first came in, how he cried and cried. How I rocked him on my shoulder and he cried.
The tooth fell out days later, I was the tooth fairy, tip-toeing across the room by the glow of the night light.
How does this happen?
It just does.
Today I asked him how he felt about being six tomorrow.
"This is your last day of five," I said.
"Nooooooo!!!! I don't want to grow up!"
Me either so I had to convince us both.
"But growing up is great! It's the best!"
Because you get to become more interesting and you get to learn and help and teach and be a better person. You get to fall in love and learn to drive a car and go to dances and have your first kiss. You get to be an art scientist if you want or a builder or fly to the moon. You get to eat ice cream for breakfast, stay up all night, wander around the world and meet strange and interesting people. You get to have children and name them Archer and love them so much you think you might possibly explode into a new universe.
We worked on tying his shoes. Archer's homework assignment this week was to set a goal to meet by Sunday and all through the week, including today, we went over knots and bunny ears, mastered the whole thing except for the very last step. I showed him what to do and he tried, over and over again, both of us equally frustrated until finally, he exploded into a fit of cries and screams and "IT'S TOO HARD! I CAN'T DO IT!'s and I took the stupid shoe and threw it across the room.
"No more!" I said. "We're done."
A few minutes later I came back. And we sat on the couch side by side for a long time before I got up to pick up the shoe, handed it to him and we kept going. Bunny ear, around the world and through the hole to pull...
For dinner he ate fish sticks and broccoli and Hal made him a hot fudge sundae for dessert.
"How does it feel to be almost six?" Hal asked.
"But I'm still five," he said back.
We're having a party for him next weekend but he didn't want to invite anyone from school, not even his best friends. He wanted a bouncie in the backyard with a slide and family only, no friends allowed.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, mom. I'm sure."
I love him so much for that. For being himself, little man stuck in the body of a boy who doesn't want to grow up, yet in so many ways already has. The other day he called himself my sun, told me his three sisters were like moons, that without him, there would be only moonlight, which is so totally true. Without him, there would be no us. No Fable. No family. No house. No nothing.
Tomorrow he will be six years old and I will be six years a mother and we will be six years a family.
Or as Archer says, "onto the second hand of things"...
"I'm sorry I threw the shoe across the room. That wasn't right."
"I'm sorry I can't tie my shoes yet. I need to be more patient."
Onto the second hand...
It was just another day, today. Much like tomorrow will be even though it so isn't. Not for him or me or any of us. Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Archer, happy birthday to you... Life will continue to move forward, cupcakes will be devoured, teeth will fall out of mouths, Archer will tie his shoes. In the meantime, we'll continue to eat Hal's sundaes, love each other, grow up. Because those things can't be stopped. Not time. Not love. (Not ice cream.)
Every day we must force ourselves to let go of what was to make way for what is, what will someday be: another birthday he'll someday want to celebrate without us. Friends only, no family allowed.
But not yet.
Tonight, like he says, he's still five.