His name isn't Thor, but when I write about him, Thomas Harry just doesn't quite fit. It is too adult, too grounded. And yet in life, as he runs around the house, I can't quite call him Thor.
Thor means something in this space. Thor is my hope. Thor is the baby I imagined alive. Thor is my dream of a preternaturally strong and otherworldly son, one who can bear grief out of the womb. Thor wriggled in me while I read Madeline, and tickled in me when I drank orange juice. A totally sentient being in utero. Thor held a lightness that was the exact opposite of what I felt. If he were named how I truly felt when I was pregnant, he would have been named some old dead name with too many consonants, a name used only in manuscripts of historical accuracy that is so serious and uncomfortable that no one pronounces it. They just point to the paper. But Thor, Thor made me smile in spite of myself.
Thor grabs my face, hands cupping each cheek, kisses me square in the mouth. Then licks my cheek, giggles. He scrunches up his nose and shakes his head and laughs, like he is a big person, but he is just my big little Thor. My baby.
He is still Thor here.
I remind myself that if he doesn't die, he will be a man someday. A big man, like his father, but with olive skin and dark hair and deep greenish brown eyes, and wide shoulders and strong tree trunk legs that ground him. A man quick to laugh and blush. People will know women surrounded him and taught him something of nurturing and kindness. Perhaps someone will look at him, like I looked at Sam, and think with that back and that very good posture, he would be a wonderful man with which to dance to some old standard, like Cheek to Cheek. And I will embrace her, and whisper in her ear, "Love him to the moon and back. Just like I love him."
His feet give him away. They are still little baby brick feet, strong and thick, same width and length. He runs now, hard and fast. Sometimes he jumps every other step in a mock skip. He tries to keep up with Beezus. He tries to catch her, but her long legs carry her farther faster. He never surrenders. But she slows, eventually, lets him catch her. Chase. Tackle. Tickle. Bite. Kiss. Pinch. Smile.
I call her Little Mama, because she nurtures the boy. She picks him up, wipes off the grass on his knees, kisses his boo-boos, says, "It's okay, honey. Bibi is here."
The women at school smile at him, and he flirts. Subtly. They tell me he will be trouble with the girls. And they tell me about their middle school sons and the girls calling, riding by the house, sending home notes. So handsome, they say. So cute, they pinch his cheek. He gives me lots of hugs, and hides behinds my legs when there are people around. My children are shy. Did you know that about my children? They clam up, hide themselves behind me, kiss my neck and whisper about going home. Both of them still are shy, and use sign language so they don't have to speak in front of strangers.
Two is something.
Two is an Associate's degree. Two is half of high school. Two is a substantial entry on your resume. Two crammed in a lot of evolution--head lifting to rolling over to wiggling across the floor to sitting up to scooting across the floor to crawling to standing to cruising to walking to running to skipping. Two is talking and eating with your mouth closed and carrying your dish to the sink. Two is stomping and knowing exactly what you want to wear. Two is liking broccoli but not potatoes. Two is sentences and thoughts and philosophies about what Santa is and where monsters live.
I have a degree in my boy now. I have studied his feet, in case...just in case. You know. I don't have to tell you why I study his feet. I inspect his little hands, which still have dimples for knuckles, and I kiss each fingertip, which have a mixture of marker and dirt and car goo under the nails. I analyze his two little boobies which I would draw with the smallest nib of a pen. Two wee little dots atop a Buddha belly. His back is muscled and strong, like his arms. People see him naked and screech, "He's cut." He is. He is strong. He has a mass of thick dark hair that grows like a weed. I call him Shaggy and he smiles. "Should we cut your hair, Shaggy?"
"Nooooooooo," he howls, clutching onto his hair like a mini-Samson. But then we cut his hair tonight and it didn't hurt. Not one bit, and he noticed right away and stopped crying and said, "HEY!"
When he was born, someone sent him the book Oh the Places You'll Go! He pulled it off the shelf last night and asked me to read it for bedtime. I keep kicking it around in my head. I just want to infuse him with the truths in that book, but I can only keep reading it and hope he gets that you just have to keep walking, trusting, suffering, learning, and knowing you are who you are with the kind of courageous honesty that isn't popular among high school boys.
Two years ago, I gave birth to a boy who I never quite believed would live. He came in spite of my doubts and fears. He lived though my brain believed him dead already. I hold him in the night now, his legs kicking off the covers as he radiates a kind of warmth that seems divinely given. My little polar bear. My little thunderbolt bearer. My little hammer-wielding pumpkin. For two years, I have watched him outside of me, amazed that he is here and happy, still not quite believing I have a son. I lie on my left side, like I did two years ago, waiting for him to kick, his reactions immediate and comforting. I still rest my hand on his chest in the middle of the night, make sure his chest is still rising and falling. It is a habit I cannot break.
I remember him in me.
I tried not to get too attached back then, and the disconnect with the attachment already there and the fear severed something important in me. I couldn't tell anyone what that was like, so I lost most of my friends during his pregnancy. It's not their fault. It's no one's fault. I am just wired for self-destruct when I am vulnerable. Most everyone who has gone through this knows what I mean. It feels like you are damaged, never going to recover from that space between believing there will be a death and hoping there won't be. Sometimes, in spite of myself, in the last few months of pregnancy, I would whisper to him "I love you, baby Thor. Don't die."
I love you, big boy Thor. Don't die.