I think I have a pretty good grasp on reality, though I don’t doubt that I could lose it someday. Recently, in fact, I’ve felt my grip slipping ever so slightly. Stress and fatigue seem to have wedged just a little extra space between the world and my perception of it.
Exhibit A is Jay who, as usual, figures large in my eyes. Our relationship has been fraught the past few days. I’m feeling thin and brittle, with really no room to absorb his three-year-old mishegas. He senses this- how could he not- and only ups his antics in response. It’s a bad cycle that needs disrupting. Yesterday I tried to break it by buying Jay a chocolate chip cookie from the bakery case at Whole Foods. He ate one half, I ate the other, and for five minutes we were friends again.
The scariest part (from this side of the line) of going all the way crazy is that it would seem impossible to find your way back. You always need at least one thing you can say for sure is real or not, like those little totems Leonardo DiCaprio and his pals carried in Inception- the one surefire way to tell the difference between dreaming and waking.
Sometimes I build Jay into my nemesis; I think, as I’ve written before, that he really is out to spoil my day. But when my ideas about him harden in this kind of pitted unreality, he has blessed knack for cracking them.
Yesterday afternoon we were watching Blues Clues. It was the episode where Blue and Steve go to outer space and learn about the planets of the solar system. As we watched, Jay asked me what planet we live on. I told him earth. He asked me what planet Steve lives on. I told him that Steve lives on earth, too. Jay disagreed. I said, what planet do you think Steve lives on? Steve lives in the t.v., Jay replied.
I laughed, and tucked his comment away as a reminder that Jay lives in his own special three-year-old world and that from there he’s unlikely to be capable of or interested in cultivating a deliberate, long-running antagonism with his father.
Later that day, after I’d put an exhausted Wally to sleep, I went upstairs to Jay’s room where he and Caroline were playing before bed. I found the two of them lying next to each other on the floor. Caroline explained that they were planning a sleepover party and that they were inviting all the characters from Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day? Then Jay told me that the party was going to be at his house and Mama’s house, and that the two houses were going to be connected together by construction. And also, there were going to be three activities for the friends at the party: dancing, snacks, and “Settlers” (of Catan).
I stood there listening to him tell about his party, his eyes wide, his face unspeakably bright, and I thought, if I ever feel like I really am losing my grip, that right there is the image to hold onto.