If you haven’t read… The Ten Plagues of the Martin Vlasits Seder (The first three…) you should probably go back and do that.
4. The Plague of Hail: 5:55pm
Him (tears): Why don’t you want me to be at the seder?
Me (plaintively): I do want you to be at the seder. But you have to listen to adults at the seder. Can you do that?
Him (yelling): I can not do what adults want me to do at the seder.
Me (firmly): Then we will have to go home.
… and then we are home.
He walks into the living room and sits on the couch beneath our picture window. The lights are off, but the evening sun through the windows reflects off the burnished wood floors and lights up his mordant little face. I sit in an armchair opposite him. My face feels hard. His face looks grim. I have won. Now that we are home, I feel safe.
I apologize for being rough with him. He cries and asks why I pushed him in the car and why I yelled at him and why my eyebrows were down. I put my eyebrows up and tell him to look and see that my eyebrows are up. I apologize for yelling at him.
Then we repeat the script about seder two more times.
5. The Plague of Lice: 6:10pm
I need to eat, so I go into the kitchen to cook macaroni and cheese. Martin stays in the living room for a bit reading a book. He is calm now but he’s not talking to me much. I try to be conciliatory whenever I can while steering him toward calmness. I ask him a few questions about school, trying to keep the conversation away from seder.
We repeat the seder script again anyway but then he asks to watch the dvd reading of the book Crysanthemum. I agree, relieved at the prospect of having a bit of time where I’m not confronted with the consequences of having misplayed the entire evening.
We go down into the basement. He sits at the kid’s computer and queues up Crysanthemum. I sit at the adult’s computer, fire up jango, espn.com and a web design blog. I can see him in my peripheral vision. He is instantly immersed in the world of the troubled little eponymous mouse and I find some helpful code examples for a problem I had been working on during the day.
Fifteen painless minutes later, Martin moves in the corner of my eye. “Papa, there is water on my pants.” “What?!? Why?!?” I am asking someone not physically present.
He is standing now with his knees pointed outward looking down at his drenched zipper. At first I think he looks surprised, but then I recognize that it is curiosity, not alarm. I help him out of his pants. He offers to go up and take a shower. I turn on the steam cleaner.
6. Plague of Blood 7:00pm
I have finished the steam cleaning, gathered a load of laundry to accompany his pants in the washer and begun to fold a few things that were leftover from the last load when I hear the front door bang shut. He’s out of the house. I grab my iPod and run out after him guessing that he is heading out for one of his pre-scripted perambulations.
I’m in the mode of just trying to get through this evening, so I’m willing to follow him if he’s planning his typical trip up to the college. His itinerary is complex but I’ve done it dozens and dozens of times: he walks the block up to the college, through the archway in one building, across the quad, past the statue of Abraham Lincoln, up to the third floor of the library, back down and out the front door, across the street into the student center, past the bowling alley, through the snack shop, across the parking lot, into the stadium, down onto the track, into one of the steeplechase pits, out of the stadium, past the fitness center, back across the street, along the long path back to our block and home again.
Once this course has begun there is no chance he will stop it without a fight. However, when I arrive on the sidewalk outside our house, I don’t see him on the sidewalk he would take to get to the college. I break into a trot. How could he be out of sight already?
He is two doors up on our neighbor’s porch. The neighbor is trying to talk him out of coming into their house. Their little boy has gone to bed and so, no Martin, you may not come in to play with his trains. He pushes past her and dashes up the stairs. I push past her too, run up the steps, catch him on the landing, throw him over my shoulder and make an excruciatingly funny joke about home invasions.