Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Carousel at the Mall

This holiday season has been pretty surreal for me. It's been a very long time since I have been able to have my cake and eat it too, if you will. We fought so hard for Seth to have surgery and then he finally got his cochlear implants and heard for the first time, and just when I thought things could get back to normal John left the family. So I had a hearing son, but no husband. Not that Seth had anything to do with John leaving, I just mean that every time things started to calm down, something else happened.

Then I proceeded to go through two and a half years on my own. By the end of it, I was content. I didn't even completely realize that I still wanted it to be different. I was used to living alone with the kids, used to being in charge of the remote, used to the solitary nights after the kids went to bed where I could do whatever I wanted to do (after homework, of course). So when John and I began to reconcile in September I knew it would be a process. Adjustments for both of us.

So it was a little scary when at the end of my vacation in Florida we sold our second vehicle, packed all of John's belongings up on top of the van, and began the trek back to Indiana. As a family.

The day after we got back in town, the kids were dying to run around and so we took them to the mall. We got an ornament made with all of our names on it and we had lunch in the food court. At some point in the time we've been away from Indiana, our mall took out the ice skating rink and replaced it with a huge carousel. Seth chose not to eat and instead stood just outside the fence blocking off the carousel and stared longingly up at it through our entire meal. He didn't beg or throw a fit or even ask to ride, he just watched then looked back and smiled at us, then went back to staring at the carousel.

He was tugging at my heartstrings in a real way, but I knew that letting all four of the bigger kids ride the carousel was a waste of money. When we had two kids we always bought for them each no matter what we were buying, even on birthdays. It was all about being fair, but I'm quickly learning that it just doesn't make sense to do that with five kids. Instead, we've been teaching them that sometimes one kid will get a special treat or a gift when the others don't. It's not an easy lesson to teach to small kids, but I think it's a worthwhile one since it's the cold hard truth that life is, in fact, not fair. Handling disappointment with grace is an important lesson, I think.

At the end of our meal Ava said "Mom, it looks like Seth would really love to ride the carousel. Can he ride it?" John and I both explained that we weren't going to pay for everyone to ride that day. Jace quickly piped up. "It's fine, mom. Seth should ride today! He's been waiting really patiently." Now before you think my kids are more well behaved than they are, let me tell you that Jace was basically saying all of this as he began to tear up. He means well, but he also hates getting left out!

I went to see how much tickets were, and since I only had a five dollar bill and the machines only gave tokens anyway, I ended up with three tokens. I walked up to Seth and asked him if he'd like to ride the carousel and the kid's eyes lit up like it were, well, Christmas, and he nodded frantically before he took off running for the entrance. I looked over my shoulder as I followed him and told Ava and Jace that I had two extra tokens if they felt like riding too. They did. Hah!

Seth immediately picked out a huge tiger to ride and Ava and Jace rode a reindeer and an ostrich. I helped Seth up and he gave me a thumbs up and the biggest grin ever. Seth is an amazing kid. He's also a challenging kid. I rarely see him unabashedly thrilled with life. So this was an exciting moment. After getting situated on the tiger, he immediately looked around. "Daddy?" He called. "Dad!" He found John, sitting at the table with Evany and Coen, and waved frantically. "Hey! Look at this!"

It was adorable. And the music started, and we began traveling in a circle, and it was everything in my life that had been missing for so long. Seth. Talking. Smiling. Laughing. Ava and Jace, grinning. And right in front of me each time the carousel completed a revolution? Evany. Coen. John. Waving at us. Smiling. Right there. Every time we came around, there he was. Always watching for us. His face broke out in a grin every time we came into view. He waved, too. "I see you, Seth! I see you, Buddy!"

I looked up at Seth and saw that the smile had never left his face, was wide enough to crack his face in two, basically, and I decided right then and there that I would move onto this carousel if that's what it took. That I would keep feeding the attendant dollars and tokens no matter what, just to keep this look on his face. Frugality be damned. He looked down at me and said "Love you, Mommy!" and flashed me a quick "I love you" ASL sign before grabbing onto the pole again.

All of it, the entire moment, all the kids and John and the carousel, it was one of the happiest moments of my entire life.

As the carousel ground slowly to a halt, I worried that Seth would throw a fit about getting off the tiger. That Jace would demand one more ride. But instead, they all happily hopped down. "Thanks, Mom! That was a pretty good surprise!" Ava said, passing me, as I helped Seth down. Seth got down, started walking, then reached back for my hand. We exited and met up with John and Coen and Evany and we all started walking out of the food court, out of the mall, and into this life we have somehow been so lucky to get another shot at.

And yes, it's cheesy that I would have a moment like this at the mall, but the mall, after all, is where I met John. It's where we worked and practically lived the entire time we dated and were engaged. So for me, the mall is a pretty special place.

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