When we moved I was worried about Henry’s transition to the new neighborhood. I was so sure he would miss Brooklyn like crazy. What sane child wouldn’t? When he has friends in his building and delicious muffins available for purchase at every corner? Not to mention Frompy? But everyone said I was being silly. “He’s going to forget all about Brooklyn like that,” they said, and snapped their elegant, manicured fingers. (I only solicit opinions from the manicured. For obvious reasons.) My mom, and I’m not exaggerating when I say this, took my head and plunged it into an enormous bowl of rice pudding, while shrieking, “He’ll be fine! Listen to me!” I don’t know why she carries around the rice pudding. I’ve begged her not to.
It turned out this was a lie. Not about the rice pudding because THAT PART IS TRUE—about him not missing his old hometown. During those first few weeks, every time he enjoyed a contemplative moment, his lower lip would quiver and he would turn to me and sob, “I miss Brooklyn.” And the tears, they would flow like the stinky Gowanus, if the Gowanus flowed, which if you ask me it does not. What did he miss? I asked, which was a mistake, because he inevitably replied, “My friends,” and then I would start in and we’d be clutching each other and weeping until my husband got home, six hours later.
But the weeping fits began to afflict him in a less regular fashion, and he started to accumulate lots of happy mornings and afternoons. He remembered how that friend he really missed bit him that one time and also he was kind of a jerk (I added that part, about him being a jerk, because I know he was only four but still, kind of a jerk), and we talked about how nice it is to have a backyard (okay, I talked about it, but he agreed) and when, back in Brooklyn, did he ever spend an afternoon splashing around a neighbor's kiddy pool in his Incredible Hulk underpants? Almost never, that’s when!
Still, though, the ennui, it lingers. The other day “Cars and Parties” made its appearance in the iPod shuffle, and he looked at me with his brimming eyes and whispered, “You have to turn this off. My heart is closing down.” (And someone hit this child? you’re thinking. It's unbearable, yet true.) My own heart broken into teeny tiny shards and flew out through my eye sockets, blinding me as I ran for the stereo and shut it all down. I held him for a while and he was better, but then, damn it, it’s a catchy song, and I kept singing it! All night! And he would look at me with these enormous saucer eyes (which I could only sense because I was blind) and he would say, “What do you think you’re doing?” Or maybe he just screamed and threw an X-wing at me. Either way, I got the message.