#Mamas. Death. Elective Mutes. Hollow-eyed twins. The traumas just keep piling up. Good thing I’ve got a wide bench with this blended family of mine. (“Chapter” 39)
Arturo’s Mama died. That’s why he muted himself, Mimi.
It’s after the soccer scrum and a supper of sautéed scallops and sandwiches. (And lots of s’s) The sunroom (one more s) is in hubbub: the twins maneuver front loaders, graders, pavers, and an excavator under the nook; Pop demonstrates to Zia how to use the sharpening steel (it’s a metal rod?) to hone a knife blade; he mutters, a dull knife is an accident waiting to happen; Mimi, Oliver and I hunker down in the breakfast nook to discuss Arturo.
But, the words “Arturo’s Mom died” turns the hubbub volume to OFF. There was a complete absence of noise like the one that descended right after I knocked the Lladro statue onto the tiled kitchen floor. The twins poke their heads out from under the benches and peer at me with hollow eyes.
Last year, adds Oliver. Cancer.
Mimi says, That is very sad.
Oliver keeps going. The teacher told us that he hasn’t cried or asked for his mother. He just stopped talking.
Tell me what actually happened during your buddy session.
Nothing happened, says Oliver. He makes a zero with his fingers. Nada.
Here’s how it went. I flip to an empty page in my notebook and sketch a desk. We sit on either side of Arturo.. I lick the tip of my pencil and draw two stick figures on little chairs: Tall Oliver. Short me. Arturo’s underneath. I pencil in a tiny boy crouching on the floor, kneeling, with his head on the seat of his empty chair. Refusing to come out.
Pop, Zia, Mimi, Oliver, and the twins ponder my picture.
Suddenly another detail comes into focus, like a car in a rear view mirror following so closely you can make out the people inside. I erase and re-draw and smudge so that Arturo’s stick hands cup the back of his ears.
Why, Mimi leans in, He’s trying to hear you better.
Oliver sniffs. I thought he was covering his ears!
Me too. I added hash marks and shading to the sketch. I didn’t realize what he was doing until I started sketching. The sketching made me see what we missed.
Well, says Pop. If he listens, then he’ll think. He leans down to pull the twins out from under the bench. If he thinks, at some point he’s just going to have to let his thoughts out.
Right! Oliver shrugs his book bag onto his shoulders. Right, Sam and Clyde?
But the twins stand mute, their eyes round as saucers. More Mamas. More dying. Traumatized all over again?
Hey, little guys…Oliver slips his pack off and grabs their hands. How about one more wild and crazy Win-Dance-Repeat? The three of them binge-watch You-Tubes of the Red Sox outfielders’ post-game routines when they win. Immediately the twins and Oliver bow to each other, fist bump, kneel and roll pretend video cameras, shuffle forward three steps, kick right legs, stick out their left hips, then FREEZE and…do it all over again.
They are cutecutecute. Even Oliver. So while he dances a bit of happy back into the twins’ eyes, I pull picture books out of my book bag. Mother, Mother, I Need Another, Where’s My Mommy, and Llama Needs a Mama.
Mimi, one more thing? I whisper so Clyde and Sam don’t hear. We checked these out to read to Arturo. But when his teacher saw them, she said “no books with mamas.”
I disagree, says Mimi. I think stories with mothers in them will get him to talk. She speaks softly too.
Or cry, I say.
Cupping HIS ear, Oliver looks over the twins’ heads, tuning in to Mimi. He narrows his eyes and raises his chin. He had disagreed with the teacher too.
Cry? Mimi looks at me. But that’s not so bad, is it?
Isabel Scheherazade (who hasn’t cried since Mom and Dad died, in case you hadn’t figured that out yet.)