Yesterday my mom came and picked me up to visit Jonah; we switch off every week, taking turns whose car we take and who drives. I was exhausted from a long day of work in NYC on Friday, so it was nice to just zone out on the way down.
Once we got to Andy’s and piled in his car to collect Boo from his house on the Anderson campus, though, I was all excitement; I’d missed my boy something awful this week. When we arrived, Jonah was outside on the playground with the residence manager, who told us he’d had a good morning.
Without waiting, off strides Jonah to the car, pausing only for hugs and kisses – then walking, all business, faster — ready for his Saturday visit with daddy and mama and grandma.
Fear of a Black Planet? he says by way of greeting and musical selection request. My poor mom up front must endure Public Enemy, played very loud at Jonah’s insistence, while me & my boy groove in the back.
Once in Andy’s apartment, Jonah efficiently opens the bags and cooler grandma brought and puts everything away in its proper location – the cokes and 7ups lined up neatly in the fridge door, the sandwiches on a shelf, crackers and cookies and whatever else in the cabinet. Usually he doesn’t put every item away, but even when he does, he takes it all right back out again to dig into lunch.
Boo sits nicely at the table 90% of the time now, legs like his mama with one wrapped around the other under the table. He eats enough for 2 or 3 kids. His tune-fish sandwich. Half of mine. Chips. Cheese Puffs. Donut. Ham and mustard on a roll. Spinach leaves with blue cheese dressing.
Finally he asks for peanut butter crackers, which we give him but he does not eat.
Here’s where he changes tactics; you can almost see the neurons and synapses at work in his little boy head. Walking over to where Andy is standing in the kitchen, he says five cheese lasagna? — a frozen lasagna dish Andy often buys him at the grocery store. Jonah repeats his request rapid-fire, three or four times. Andy opens the freezer to show Jonah the three packages of five cheese lasagna already there, though he has no intention of heating one up. I mean, Jonah’s just eaten all this food. Too much already, really.
But he asks Jonah anyway. Want some?
Jonah tries his request again – five cheese lasagna? – ignoring the packages his daddy has just produced. Then it hits me. That little clever shit. He doesn’t want five cheese lasagna at all. What he wants is grocery store, and he knows it’s not grocery store day, so he’s going to work it however he can to get there. He’s playing his hand carefully and knows he ought to fold, but he can’t resist calling off the bet.
So he goes all in, asking straight out: Grocery store?
Evidently Jonah thinks “grocery store” is nirvana; Andy takes him on Sundays with varying degrees of success, if you define success as selecting your items, putting them in the cart, maneuvering to the self-check-out lane, getting out of the store, and returning to the car.
Tomorrow, buddy. We’ll go to the grocery store tomorrow, Andy says patiently.
Now Jonah’s mad and sad.
He starts to cry, fast and hard, no ramping up slow-like. Sobbing, he throws himself on the floor, crying grocery store? Grocery store!? over and over — a Shakespearean tragedy whose protagonist has just discovered his beloved is truly out of reach.
Then, just as suddenly, he flings himself across the room and lands on the couch. Bam Bam Bam, he pounds his fists on the coffee table. Bam Bam Bam. We’re all just kind of letting him work it out.
Then into the bedroom, collapsing on the bed, hitting the pillows, crying out. He even yells Amy! twice — I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say my first name. Andy doesn’t want me to come in; he’s protecting me from an aggression. But I gently push past him, risking it to try and calm Boo. Jonah cocks his arm back at me but lowers it again quickly when I say no hit mama. It takes him a while to get it together in there, but he does not hit mama.
He does not hit mama.
As much as I hate watching him go through his cycle of anger and despair over denial of grocery store, I am proud of Jonah just the same. It all means he is expressing himself more appropriately, as tantrum-like as he looks in the process.
He’s mad, so he yells.
He’s sad, so he cries.
He’s frustrated, so he hits the table with his fists.
But he didn’t hit us. Not this day, anyway, or any I’ve had with him in a while. I consider it a big breakthrough. I continue to hope beyond hope that his aggressions will mitigate into disappearance.
And I just know he had a kick-ass time at grocery store today.