The woeful sound rose in the crisp early morning air, strengthening in volume as it grew from a cry to a wail, as I approached the driveway from the back yard.
I hurriedly passed under the overhang of the workshop, en-route, and then rounded the corner. From there I could both hear and observe the struggle going on—“No Mummy! No! I wanna go home! I don’t wanna get out! I don’t want you to go to work! I wanna go home!”
“But Ethan, you have to get out. Mummy has to go to work. You need to cooperate!” Apparently, the negotiations had already been going on for some time—but to no avail.
Ethan, my heart’s delight, my three-year-old great-nephew, whom I am privileged to babysit on Thursdays, had apparently dug in his heels (if there was any place on his car seat that he could possibly have dug them into.) If he wasn’t physically doing that, then it must simply have been the power of his will that held him there. He was immovable, determined, anchored— a beautiful, lovable, but, nevertheless, stubborn little linebacker, firmly holding his ground against his strong young mother, his determined old aunty, and the ticking of the clock. Sadly, the latter waits for no man— or in this case, no little man.
I had heard that this stubborn streak existed in Ethan, and that it had occasionally emerged in the past, but I believed, until then, that surely it was an exaggeration. I had never witnessed it before. This incident put me in mind of my own son, forty years earlier. When he started kindergarten, for three mornings in a row, he wrapped his arms tightly around the light standard on the corner near our house, and refused to be dragged away from it. This memory seemed like eons ago until that very moment with Ethan. Strangely, it brought back that same mother’s pain.
With one of us pushing Ethan forward from behind, and one of us pulling from in front, we finally dislodged him from his seat. Realizing that he was defeated, he tearfully turned himself away from us, put a knee down onto the carpet and backed himself slowly out and onto the gravel driveway.
His mummy then kissed him, and hugged him, and reassured him lovingly of her imminent return, but his persistent sobs prevented anything he tried to say to her from being understood. Finally, he took my hand— tears still streaming down his face.
We waved goodbye together and I quickly turned with him, to preempt him from having any last-minute thoughts of running towards his mother’s car as she backed it out of the driveway. “Aah! Poor Mummy,” I thought.”I know how you feel.”
I decided we would stop and snuggle on the garden bench, against the wall, under the shop overhang, on the way to the house. Maybe I would be able to decipher then what it was he was trying to say, amidst those gasping little sobs.
My own heart was pounding with both empathy and exhaustion as I seated myself. He snuggled in close as I reached towards him to wipe away a big tear rolling towards his chin.
Suddenly— Boom!— Siri, our family’s big golden retriever, bounded up from the backyard and leaped right up onto the bench, positioning herself on her haunches, right next to Ethan. Like a loving mother dog she began licking his face with great enthusiasm.
“Siri’s kissing me! Siri’s kissing me!” Ethan cried. And, for all intents and purposes, I do believe she was!
For some reason, in my belief that words are important, that words can solve everything, I had just been out-manoeuvred in my attempt at communicating— by a dog! Siri had let Ethan know all that he needed to know, without asking a single question, or waiting for a single answer—“Everything’s gonna be alright!”
Could it be that Siri remembered the pain of being separated from her own mother when she left that big barn on the farm where she had been raised?
Or was it just in her nature to be loving towards this little boy, who has been patiently trying to teach her to obey him, with his commands of “Sit! Siri, sit!” or “Up! Siri, up!” and his handful of dog treats that he asks us for the moment that he sees her?
Or perhaps this was simply something that I like to call a “God moment”— a moment when God puts whatever is necessary for us into our path, just when we need it the most.
Whatever it was, it was beautiful.