There were three packages neatly lined up on my dining room table when I got home. My mother had brought in my mail and arranged them, small to large, next to the pile of bills. I walked past them and went upstairs to say hello to my husband, who was sitting up with our still-awake boy. I knew he was still awake because he calls “I love you” into the hallway until he falls asleep.
Once certain he was asleep, we went downstairs. I flicked on the dining room light to go through the mail. Matt went into the kitchen to start dinner. In the boxes were things I had ordered; things we needed (aluminum-free deodorant), a book for Matt’s birthday (David Buckley’s biography on David Bowie) and in the biggest box, Sullivan’s new sneakers.
The deodorant came in a tiny jar and is to be applied with an even tinier spatula. The book is a paperback edition and I now wish I had sprung for the hardcover. The sneakers are blue with lime green and white accents, and they are already laced, which I am grateful for. But they are big. Not too big for him. They are big because he is big. These sneakers are as long as my hand.
His foot used to be smaller than my thumb.
I feel like I am standing, more like teetering, on the fulcrum of a seesaw. On one side, my boy is too big for me to carry, too big for training wheels, picture books, and cut-up grapes. On the other side, my baby still needs me to help him fall asleep at night, to make his lunch, check his homework, and squeeze out the last bit of toothpaste. He goes up and down, but I am still his center.
When I hold the new sneaker and pull out the tissue paper stuffed in the toes my eyes well up. I turn over the shoe and rub my thumb over the ridges of the rubber soul. He is going to be eight in eleven days. I flip it back over, untie the knot at the top of the laces, and stretch the blue fabric so they will be easy for him to put on tomorrow. Then I place them back into the red cardboard box.
Tomorrow, when he puts them on and ties them up, he will believe that they make him run faster. He will tell me they are the perfect shoes for climbing the rock wall in gym class. In the spring, he will hop on his bike and pedal away and then he will drag them on the pavement instead of using his brakes, ripping holes in the toes. By summer they will be too small and I will have to order another pair.
Before we go to bed, I put the box in his room. I take the flashlight and the open copy of Who Were The Beatles out of his loft bed and place them next to his shoes. He is softly snoring, one hand curled under his flushed cheek. He’s wearing pajama pants, but no shirt, and I count his bird-like rib bones. Kissing his head, I pull up the covers, and flip on his nightlight before closing his door.
Amie Reilly lives in Connecticut with her husband, (almost) eight-year-old son, and their dog. She is currently commuting to New York as she finishes her MA in English at Fordham University. When she is not writing academically, she enjoys writing creative nonfiction, personal essays, and the occasional short story.