Brian is gone on a guys' fishing trip this weekend. My folks and their friends came over to the house last night to watch Erik while I went out with three girlfriends. I drove out to the mall to meet them for spa pedicures. The leg massage I received was so violent and wonderful that I was shaking when I left. The man practically beat the crap out of my lower extremities, and I would have gladly paid him for more. My toes are my favorite 1950s shade of glossy crimson again. After that, we wore our flip flops to the Mexican restaurant across the street, where I was served cheese-smothered food on a brightly colored platter the size of the steering wheel in my vehicle and a cold Mexican beer with a wedge of lime. We drank ice water long after our meals were consumed and practically laughed ourselves sick. From there, we went to a large hotel lounge on the river to have a cocktail. We paid three dollars to listen to an enthusiastic little band made of very nice looking, slightly balding men play some now ancient but very danceable pop hits. I commented aloud on how the place used to be full of boring, older people, but that didn't seem to be the case anymore. Wait a minute. Uh oh.
This morning I packed lunches for us both and headed to meet the girls again for a hike. We drove a few miles past newly-sprouted clusters of obnoxious mini mansions into the pine woods of my childhood for a quarter-mile stroll up to a viewpoint over a beautiful waterfall. Erik greeted everyone he saw. A man clearing brush from the trail cautiously turned his head to look at me a couple of times before he straightened up and said my name. I recognized him as a former classmate and neighbor I have known since kindergarten. We had last run into each other 10 years ago at our class reunion. We then continued our walk, but Erik was easily distracted and refused to walk further at one point, so I carried him up the hill, ignoring the fiery sensation building in the muscles of my thighs. At the top, I encountered one of Erik's physical therapists, who seemed genuinely excited to see Erik out and about. Erik seemed to enjoy the roar the water made as it cascaded over a ledge of thick volcanic rock, fell in a generous, white spray of glistening droplets to the ground far below us, and churned violently there before continuing its journey downstream. He appreciates strong, powerful noises. Forceful noises. Industrial noises. I find that awfully strange for a kid who is so sensitive to noise. I am still required to rev up the food processor out on the porch when I get a craving for hummus or guacamole.
Our outing was not enough exercise for any of us by a long shot, so we all headed back into town and parked in a bustling lot at the base of the butte, an old cinder cone that rises nearly 500 feet above town. My friend offered me the use of her baby jogger, and I placed Erik's narrow behind in the seat. He informed me that he wanted to get out immediately, but I bribed him with a cookie and told him to remain still. I then checked to ensure I had another cookie for the return trip. I pushed 35 pounds of boy up the sloping spiral road to the top without much of a problem. In the words of John Cougar Mellencamp, it hurt so good. I was incredibly proud because a mere twelve months ago this would have transformed me into a doughy, wheezing heap and resulted in an emergent call to some sort of rescue helicopter. We all ended up kicking serious butt. At the summit, we sat, chatted, and enjoyed the gorgeous view spanning the mountain ridge in the distance, the busy town, and the dusty desert before heading back down the nature trail with my body straining to prevent 35 pounds of boy from careening down the pebbly slope, through spiky puffs of sagebrush and juniper trees, over the edge, and onto the highway below. We made it to our vehicles and parted ways once again. I imagine I will be a little on the sore side tomorrow.
When we got home I found a box from Amazon in the mailbox containing the new book I ordered about a child with WS written from the mother's perspective. As emotional as I have been lately, I attempted not to crack it open but was overcome by curiosity and have already devoured nearly half of it in one sitting. As disturbing the description of her behavior becomes as the book progresses, it was nice to read parts of my life as a mother reflected back at me in the first segment. It made me feel that much less insane. I smiled when I read about many kids with WS living on a diet of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, approaching strangers without fear, and manipulating unsuspecting adults. Erik tried to hold many strangers' hands today. He smiled and gently touched people's faces who stooped to talk to him and said hello to nearly everyone, including the tiny insects buzzing by us on the trails. I absolutely hate that he does this but see something incredibly beautiful in it, too. The book also unearthed some really painful memories. Memories of Erik having to sleep in his car seat at night for months because of his horrible reflux, leaving the gorgeous little crib and bedding set I had lovingly put together for him untouched in his nursery. Memories of multiple medical studies, some of which yielded horrible results. Memories of hearing "mentally retarded" for the first time from an uncaring, insensitive asshat in a white lab coat. Overall, though, even the sad memories were comforting because they are a little fuzzier to me now and are largely put away unless something like this book triggers them. I can now stop in my tracks where I'm standing in the middle of this bizarre life of mine and look back at where I have been, feeling a little more like a weathered veteran. Like I said, it hurts so good.
The view is pretty darn impressive from here, too.