Yesterday everyone got home late and we had take-out for dinner and I was scrambling to put out everything we needed, and I opened the silverware drawer and stopped short. For some reason, the last time Otto unloaded the dishwasher, he decided that our silverware organizer was arranged incorrectly. For four and a half years it has been (left to right) knives, forks, big spoons, little spoons; what I looked in on as I was exhorting Monkey to pour milk and Chickadee to get out the napkins was big spoons, forks, little spoons, knives.
This halted the entire operation. “What did you DO?” I asked Otto, totally baffled by the drawer. He mumbled something about how he thought the new arrangement might make it easier to set the table (he and Chickie both often reverse the knives and forks). “But you can’t… just… do THAT!” I sputtered. “You can’t just CHANGE it without any WARNING! That’s not how it GOES!” By now both kids had come to marvel at the rearranged drawer, and Chickadee looked at it, then at me, and set to putting the drawer back to the way it had been. Monkey just looked horrified. I grabbed my son. “DO YOU SEE this little OCD acorn right here?” I demanded of Otto. “He didn’t fall far from THIS TREE”—indicating myself—”and that means you can’t just REARRANGE EVERYTHING I KNOW TO BE TRUE ABOUT SILVERWARE without TELLING ME.”
Chickadee finished setting the drawer to rights and turned around. “BAD OTTO,” she said. Then she patted me on the head and said, “It’s okay, Mom, I fixed it! It’s all better now!”
We all had a little laugh and went and had dinner.
It was funny because it was just silverware, but I was completely thrown for a loop by it, for real. For a minute before it was just kind of a joke, it was sort of like the earth tilted about 45 degrees and I felt sick and worried I might slide off the edge.
I wonder, at times like this, if that’s how Monkey feels all the time. If his world forever has the silverware in the wrong slots, and no one told him, and now he’s standing there trying to get a grip, when the people who were supposed to keep the silverware organized deliberately changed everything with no warning.
Me, I like the silverware where it belongs, because that’s something I can control. I like to know where I can find a fork, because lord knows I never know which Monkey I’m going to get.
Am I going to get the Monkey I had yesterday afternoon, when my dad called, and we chatted for a while, and then I put Monkey on the phone and he laughed with delight and said, “How are you, Grandpa? How’s Buddy?”
Or am I going to get the Monkey I had this morning, who went into what was supposed to be a brainstorming conference with us and his teachers at school and immediately wheeled his chair into the far corner, pulled his entire body inside of his sweatshirt, and started shrieking that we all hate him?
How about the Monkey we took out to a nearby diner, afterward, to make sure he was really okay for school after that exhausting almost-hour of him melting down over and over, who took the news that they were out of cocoa in stride, opted instead for chocolate milk, and then graciously shared it with me, carefully pouring some into my coffee so that I could have a “Monkey-made mocha” and then offering some to Otto, too?
Or maybe it’ll be the Monkey I just picked up from school, the one who had to leave the field trip today, because just hours after agreeing that it’s good and reasonable that he cannot use his body against others and he will not do it anymore, got into a fight with a kid over a stick (a fucking stick!) and punched him?
Now I’m stuck at home with the Monkey who sobbed himself to sleep, who spent the ride home first insisting that it wasn’t his fault, that he didn’t do anything, and finally, when I couldn’t take it anymore, I stood on the brakes (no, not my finest moment) and said, “DID. YOU. HIT. ANOTHER. CHILD?” And when he first cried about the sudden stop and then argued “But he—” I interrupted to boom, “YES OR NO?” Forced to answer that, he broke down, said we all hate him, and we should, because he does these terrible things over and over.
The Monkey who picks up his room and empties the dishwasher without being asked and feeds the dog and kisses her and asks me how my day was is the Monkey I see when I look into those big green eyes. But the Monkey I fear will never be able to hold a job or move out of our house unless it’s to go to jail is in there, too.
I don’t know which Monkey I’m getting, moment to moment. I fear which Monkey I’m getting, sometimes, moment to moment. I love him, all of him, but I don’t know how to help him. He’s sliding off the edge of a world constantly shifting on its axis, and my reach just isn’t quite enough.
So maybe it’s irrational—hell, I’m sure it’s irrational—but under the circumstances, I’m okay with insisting that the damn silverware stay where it belongs.