Last night I got to hold my four year old son’s hand as we walked through the parking lot of our local shopping centre. We had picked up some groceries for dinner and he had been fairly good throughout the expedition, although his bottom lip stuck out just a little when I told him he couldn’t have the chocolate he was eyeing off.
I was anxious to get my boy out of the rapidly cooling autumn night air and into his seat in the back of our white hatch back. But, really, I had nothing to worry about. He was perfectly warm in his thick parka and his hazel eyes were nearly lost behind his blue beanie hat. Still – I was looking forward to getting him home, giving him his dinner, getting him into the bath and then bed for a story before sleep time.
I strapped him into his car seat and kissed his cheek. His grin lit up his little round face.
As I closed the car door I noticed an older couple – perhaps in their sixties – watching me with a look of great consternation.
And I knew why.
I was pretending. I was pretending to hold my son’s hand, pretending to put him in his car seat, and I was pretending that I would take him home and get him all warm, snuggly and safe in his bed. I was pretending it all.
I knew I looked foolish to them. But my boy, my son, seems so real sometimes. I can see the smattering of freckles on his face, I can talk to him about his day, and I can try to get his light brown, straight hair into some semblance of order.
I want so much for him to be real, and I am torn between giving up my fantasies and acting normally or holding on to the closest I would ever get to my son.
The strange thing about last night is that my pretending and the stares of the older couple were all within the confines of a dream. I was conflicted about holding onto the fantasy of my child from within a dream.
I woke up this morning feeling desolate and empty, as I do after I have dreams about our children. There is no reality, and not even a fantasy in a dream, that will ever give me our son.