I live in a neighborhood where the lots are narrow, the houses small, and closet space is at a premium. Which means I share my closet with my son – it’s in his room – and my wife gets our bedroom closet to herself.
So merely to get dressed in the morning, I have to poke my head into Rafael’s room, and I have one huge pet peeve.
It’s his dresser drawer. It’s a mess. He never shuts the damn drawers! It’s absolute chaos: one will be closed completely, another open a crack, one open all the way, the fourth half way. It’s maddening!
Look at this disaster!
And adding insult to injury, the top of the dresser is strewn with all manner of junk that should be neatly stacked elsewhere. But hey – have I not graciously kept my mouth shut about the un-put-away futon in front of the dresser, and the overflowing wastebasket next to it?
I know his fifteen year old eyes and mind don’t see it the way I do, but sometimes I get so worked up that I slam all the drawers shut, even if it means unceremoniously shoving a heap of his unfolded socks deep into the back of the damn thing.
But one day, when the house was quiet, and I was home alone, I stopped before slamming anything. I paused, and suddenly I realized that what I had before me was not an explosion of chaos and laziness and parental failure, but rather, it was the Rosetta Stone of Rafael, a human being. Just as a single drop of our blood contains all our DNA, so that dresser drawer, and what sat on it, contained my entire son.
I suddenly found it… profound.
Let’s start with what’s sitting on top of it.
To the rear left notice the empty tissue box (he’s fifteen; hey, better a run on Kleenex than a bunch of stiff socks under the bed).
Next note the AP Biology text book. He’s only a sophomore, and I thought AP classes were a bit much to take on this early, but he insisted. He’s getting a C, but at our family meeting with his high school counselor, I asked if colleges would rather see a B in a regular course or a C in an AP course (their weighted GPA’s being the same).
The counselor said that, in general, they’d rather have the Advanced Placement C: it shows the kid has ambition. Rafael wants to take two AP classes next year, in addition to playing football, which is a giant time suck, and I told the counselor I was worried about him taking on too much. I told her I just wanted him to keep all doors open, from community college to Harvard.
In as gentle a way as possible, she let me know I needn’t worry about the Harvard door – it was already closed – his course load wasn’t nearly stacked with enough AP classes, and a “C,” be it AP or not, is just not gonna unlock that door anyway. That’s fine. Who can afford $62,772 a year to open a door anyway?!
Front and center are the Futurama mini-lunch box and the novelty can of Slurm. What can I say, the kid has good taste in TV. Gets it from his parents. And you can also see one of several broken head sets we have lying around the house. If we frankensteined enough of them together, I bet we could actually get two working ears and a functioning jack.
My wife and I are constantly nagging Rafael to read more. Not just what’s assigned in school, but something for pleasure. Sure, we’d love to see him pouring over Mark Twain or even Stephen King, but in the end, we’ll settle for the (mostly illustrated) “Pawnee” companion book to the TV show “Parks and Rec” at upper right.
There’s a funny thing that happens to boys during puberty (and it has nothing to do with Kleenex). All of a sudden it’s like a light switch is thrown: they go from being stinky thirteen year olds who you have to badger to death to get into the shower once a week to young men who shower once or even twice a day, and, hallelujah, keep deodorant handy (on top of the math class grid paper). He uses Old Spice, just like his old man.
Behind the white socks, behind the floral and plaid boxers, I found Floppy Dog. I was dumbstruck. His Aunt Jean, who he barely knew and who has since passed away, sent him this little stuffed animal when he was one or two. And he loved it. Rafael was a self contained and somewhat introverted toddler, but he gushed love for that little stuffed critter and slept with it every night.
I could never tell what the thing was: rabbit was my best guess. But Rafael named him Floppy Dog, and Floppy Dog he remains. Floppy Dog has survived two moves and Rafael’s own chronic absent mindedness. And, of course, his showing up in that drawer is no accident. Don’t know whether he’d admit it or not, but Rafael clearly still loves Floppy Dog.
A little faded, but still cute, no?
Even with this mortal wound, Rafael would not abandon Floppy Dog.
And you’d have to be pretty hard hearted not to see why.
So here it is: a container of my son, from a favorite childhood stuffy to hip TV references to hygiene products designed to make him appealing to girls.
Where has the time gone?