The Sixth in the Seven Days of Timmy’s Snow White
On this day, Timmy’s Dad left early for work, and shortly afterward Timmy’s brother was picked up for school by the Favor-Payback Car Pool, so Timmy himself got up late. When he was up, the first thing he did was to go and find the ugly baby shirt of a perfectly awful yellow-brown color. What Timmy had called ‘Baby Poop Yuck.’ Timmy’s mother had agreed with him, if silently. A gift, a hand-me-down gift, supposedly from the grandson of the lady next door. Timmy’s Mom suspected the grandson’s Mom hadn’t liked it either and had promptly handed it back. Because the lady next door didn’t want to be embarrassed by having it in her house, she gave it to Timmy’s Mom. For Timmy, she’d said. And Timmy’s Mom had made him wear it a few times. When she was sure the lady next door would see. Fortunately the lady was also a forgetful sort. So, after a 4th time, his Mom put it away, up in the attic. Timmy had followed when she went up to store it, so he knew it was in the small spare room she used for all her quilting materials. He had hoped she’d never used it in a quilt, but he knew she never threw out anything that could be used. He dug it out and took it down to his room. When he pulled it on, it barely covered his middle. He had to force his arms into the sleeves and they were so tight they looked ready to split their seams. He had to keep yanking it down as far as it would go to look even half-way decent. Then he had sneezed. Explosively. Several times like that. Snuffing loudly after each one.
Timmy’s mother did a double take when she saw him in the shirt, but when he pressed a finger beneath his nose and scrooched his face up, she began to worry. Before she could think better of it, she asked Timmy what was wrong. And though Timmy had said, “Nudding,” when he turned away, she heard an explosive sneeze. Then she realized she’d heard those sounds early in the morning, before she and Timmy’s Dad had gotten up. They’d speculated on what it could be and decided they didn’t know, finally settling on Timmy’s Mom’s suggestion of an angry squirrel mother, chatter-scolding her mischievous squirrel kits. They’d looked at each other and laughed. But now she wasn’t laughing. It hadn’t been a squirrel. It had been, it was, Timmy. And now it was happening again.
Turning around, holding his nose, his face screwed up, he asked for a 'tissoo plead'. She bent to feel his head, but he kept sniffing and snuffling and saying, 'tissoo, tissoo'. His head was cool. And this wasn’t like the sounds or the symptoms of any cold she’d ever encountered before. With two boys, she felt she’d been around the cold block enough times that by now that she could tell. She looked at his clothes and then looked at him - he wouldn’t look back. That was when she announced his breakfast would be ready in a bit and then folded her lips, handed him a whole box of tissues, and told him to skidoo, flapping her hand, motioning him to get on out. She mixed and made him two big waffles, plopping them out onto a plate, loading them with butter and syrup and cutting them into manageable pieces. Then poured out a cold glass of milk and set everything out, along with a fork so Timmy could handle it all by himself. When she called him in, she sat him down in front of it all and motioned for him to eat. Then, with her back to him, she set about re-arranging the silverware drawers, making so much noise any of Timmy’s sneeze noises had to be muffled. And anyway, Timmy loved waffles and was so busy getting every mouthful of them, along with big gulps of cold milk in between, the sneeze noises were considerably fewer. When he'd finished, she gestured for him to take himself off, and after a barrage of sneezes, which got no visible attention from his Mom, he did leave. Slowly. With a few more wet sneezy sounds accompanying his exit.
His Mom stood there, gathering herself. She was to be his only audience for the next 6 plus hours. And while she suspected this was another day of whatever Timmy’s current Thing was, she couldn’t be sure. It was barely possible he was coming down with a cold. She quietly followed after him, to see where he was going and what he was going to do. She found him in the living room, where he was preparing to make a tent of the afghan throw from the back of the couch, using the hassock on one side and the couch on the other. He sensed her presence and tucked his head down, waiting to perform another two explosive sneezes. Now she was sure it was a performance. Telling him briskly to be sure to use the tissues, she took her leave, going upstairs to strip the beds. She’d change the beds and then do a laundry. Which would keep her from wanting to take her young son and hang him out on the clothes line where he could sneeze himself silly, entertaining the squirrels and birds. She could keep herself in check, but her imagination would have it’s way.
It took her a satisfying long couple of hours or more. Still, in a brisk mood and moving briskly, she went about her task, stripping beds, semi-folding them for easier carrying. She threw open the windows in each room, only returning to close them as she made the rounds again, this time putting clean sheets on each and remaking them before picking up and straightening out everything in each of the rooms. She felt better afterward. Beds neatly re-made, each room straightened up and having had an airing out. She found that she herself was also neatly re-made and benefitting from her own airing-out. She’d half-feared Timmy would come up to find her, eager to continue his performance, but he hadn’t. After a brief luncheon of PJ and jam sandwiches with more milk, many fake sneezes and heavy lidded glances from Timmy, which she ignored, her mouth pressed tight between bites, she again sent him out of her presence and gathered what she’d need for doing the washing of the sheets she’d stripped that morning.
Reaching the little room with the washing machine and dryer, she loaded the machine and had added soap and was setting the controls when she heard Timmy’s footsteps. Before she could turn to greet him or at least get a reading on what role he was playing, she felt his arms tuck around her thighs and felt him bury his head in them. Swiveling was easier once Timmy sensed that her movement did not signal an attempted escape but a wish to pick him up. When she finally managed to face him, his arms were still loosely wrapped about her and his head was still down and half-buried. She grasped him beneath his arms and swung them both back around to face the machine, where she sat him down on its top, returning his hug and nuzzling his bent head, now buried against her middle, no eye contact, and no words.
They stayed like that for a moment or two and then she began to hum a no-name tune, that made itself up as she hummed, and soon she and Timmy were both rocking to the gentle rhythm the nameless tune was setting. When it ended, as it had begun, quietly, of its own accord, they stayed still, their arms about each other. Leaning down, she asked, Rough week, Timmy? and his head bobbed against her. Still just above whispering, she told him she thought he was doing a splendid job of whatever he is doing. And when Timmy’s head almost lifted, she added he certainly had gotten his whole family’s attention. And that said a lot. She thought that she was burbling, and in a way she was, but it was comforting burbling and that’s what she sensed Timmy needed.
When his head lifted enough to allow him another huge explosive sneeze, she caught him again beneath his arms and lifted him down to set him firmly on his feet. He immediately turned, finger flat beneath his nose, head held back, to announce, “Godda ged a tiddoo,” and headed back to the living room. Though it did seem to her that his shoulders, bursting through the ugly yellow poop shirt-seams, were set a little more strongly and his back a little straighter as he marched away from her. Sighing, she turned back to the machine, setting it to ON and thinking it would be a long afternoon. As it indeed proved to be. Long and tedious. For both of them, she thought. Timmy would do all right on the stage, she mused, he wouldn’t go out of character no matter how draining or boring it might be. And she hadn’t been the best in the way of audience. For any actor in any setting, a single occupied seat in the whole of a theater had to be a bummer.
When the car pool drive dropped Timmy’s brother off he came bounding up the porch steps. And as the car pool car backed down the driveway, giving a couple of farewell toots of the horn, Timmy’s brother came bursting in, blowing like the small engine he was. When he went upstairs to change, Timmy did followed him up. And then followed him for what was left of the afternoon. Causing much going up and coming down of the stairs, many explosive ahhhh-ahhh-ah-chooo-ings, and a whole lot of foot tromping, up and down, up and down, as Timmy’s brother tried to escape but, sure as cats hunt mice, Timmy followed.
It was a relief to her when Timmy’s Dad got home so she could get busy with \dinner preparations, and then with the serving and the eating - all accompanied by Timmy, one finger pressed beneath his nose, doing a very ham actor-ish job of going, ‘snuff, snuff, snuff’ on a rising note, and then, after a pause marked by his holding his head back, finger pressed beneath his nose hard enough to go white, he would release the breath in an, ‘ooh, aah!’ Followed by satisfied head-shake at the supposedly thwarted sneeze, only to detonate a huge one in a blast of noisy explosive sneeze-noise. He’d perfected his act, this time including a small, discretely-sized paper bag for his “used” tissues. Tissues, his Mom thought with irritation, that were perfectly fine. Really unused, into which he was blowing nothing, and then wiping nothing. Endlessly.
After dinner, it was unspoken but clear that no one wanted to sit together to watch a movie. Everyone had had enough of Timmy, and though Timmy’s Mom and his brother were holding their breath against Timmy raising a ruckus, his Dad had said, Oh Lord, I forgot, I’ll do it tomorrow night if that’s okay, and since Timmy privately thought that would be a great way to end HIS week, he didn’t put up a fuss and his brother and his Mom let out their breath and breathed easy.
By the time his Dad got upstairs to his room, Timmy’s nose and upper lip were a rosy blush-colored from being dry-rubbed all day and evening by tissues. His Dad held up a warning finger as he entered the room, saying he couldn’t afford to catch what Timmy had, so, instead of reading to him, he was going to plug in the small tape player and let Timmy listen to Cat’s in the Cradle and other songs on Harry Chapin’s Verities and Balderdash album. Timmy was grateful and pleased, glad to settle for a big hug and light’s out. Falling asleep to the music was going to be great and he was ready for it. But first he quietly snuck down the back way to the kitchen and stuffed that ucky colored baby shirt in the bottom of the kitchen garbage bag. He thought his Mom might have seen him do it, but he figured she’d be as glad to see it go as he was. Waste or no waste. When he got back upstairs, he snuggled down in bed and was asleep before Cat’s in the Cradle ever even played.