This is Part 2. For Part 1, click here.
We lost Dad almost 20 years ago. This story is not about that but it recalls something that happened that day. A moment between a mother and her son, a legendary family story, and Dad maybe getting a little even in the end.
Mikey was five and Tracey’s youngest son. He spent that February day running around and playing with his brother and cousins. Not paying attention to all the tears and drama that consumed the adults.
Eveyone was at the house. All the sisters. Their kids. Spouses and significant others. Aunts, uncles, cousins and neighbors streamed in and out all day. Phone calls made and answered. At one point, Tracey and Mom went up to Mom’s room for a little while. Eventually Mikey noticed his Mom was missing.
Where’s my Mom? She’s upstairs with Grammy, she’ll be done soon. Do you need anything?
I don’t feel good. My nose is stuffy; it hurts. He was looked over and told he was fine. The grown-ups around him figuring he was just trying to get his mom to come downstairs.
Off he goes to play. Not for long.
Again. My nose is stuffy. I don’t feel good. I want my Mom. He was looked over, again, and told he was fine. That his Mom was busy with Grammy and would be down soon. Well Tracey and Grammy eventually came down and at some point he mentions to his Mom that he doesn’t feel good.
And then, that’s when it really gets going. After quizzing him about what was wrong, Tracey did what any mother would do, she looked up his nose. She thought she could see something but, to be certain, asked other people to look up her child’s nose. All the other parents thought that this was a normal request; I however, not yet attuned to the idiotic things that parent do, passed. What, boogers are gross.
Everyone agreed – Mikey had something up his nose. The question was what and how to remove it. Speculation abounded and it was generally assumed to be a cocoa puff. Discussions are had regarding the best way to break up the cocoa puff. Ed, Laura’s boyfriend, is trying to see if he can get Mikey to blow as hard as he can to dislodge it.
Mikey, by now regretting ever mentioning that something was wrong, kept looking around as if he wished the floor would open up and swallow him. His mother, getting more annoyed as he refused to tell her what is lodged in his nose, is now threating him with a trip to the hospital where the doctors will give him all sorts of needles and worse.
Finally, Mikey gives a mighty blow. The object shoots from his nose. The offending projectile is found and an intense debate about what the hard oval mass is ensues.
That’s when we hear him. Mikey. Shaken and small. Five-year-old Mikey. Standing there, staring up at his mother. His mother, who is in no mood, and says:
“Maybe it’s a pussy willow”
A pussy willow. Mikey, at school several days prior, had gotten a pussy willow bud lodged in his nose and was too afraid to tell anyone.
In those four little words, I saw my Dad reflected in my sister’s face. I like to think that Dad, soaring high in the universe, paused briefly in the folly of his new adventure, and laughed. His deep, rumbling, belly laugh, the one without sound. The one that made his whole body shake. Yeah. His Irish eyes shining with sheer delight at his tiny little Tracey and her toilet-clogging-self.