Connecting with Isaac through Maya Angelou

I’ve been reading Maya Angelou’s autobiographies. I’m sorry to admit I didn’t pick them up until she’d died.

This morning over breakfast, Isaac and I had a rare opportunity to talk alone. John is traveling for work, and Isaac’s camp doesn’t start until 8:45, so we had some unexpected and welcomed leisure to chat.

I told him I’d been reading the stories of a woman who had a son when she was only 16 years old. Back then, women didn’t have as many options: she had to put him in 24-hour/day care and see him only one day a week for much of his young life. Then, when he was about Isaac’s age, he stayed with his grandmother while Maya traveled as a dancer and singer with the European tour of Porgy and Bess, a welcomed career gem that gave her the chance to find her profession and the ability to support her child. She was gone for several months, and they both missed each other terribly. She came home early because her son was not doing well, and her family could no longer care for him. When they reunited, he clung to her and was afraid she would leave him again.

Isaac asked if I would ever go away like that. I told him I would not.

I told him that when I was pregnant with him, I worked very hard to get work that I could do when he slept and, later, use only minimal childcare. I didn’t want to spend 10 hours/day between travel to-and-from work, plus work itself. I wanted to be with him. I was older when I had him, and I had some options open to me that Maya did not.

He closed his eyes. Tears welled up under his eyelashes, puddles that sat there as he spoke.

“I don’t like going to school. I miss being with you,” he said, eyes still closed.

I asked him if he wanted a hug. He nodded, tears miraculously staying put under his inward gaze.

I knelt beside him and held him.

I told him I felt the same way when I was his age. I actually stayed home from school to be with my mom, but I got in trouble. The truant officer came to our house. I told him that parents who don’t send their children to school can be arrested and go to jail. Then we really wouldn’t see each other. We both laughed. We shared a lingering hug before moving on with the day.

We drove to Junior Water Sports Camp, a five-minute ride down the road. He asked me if four-dimensional bubbles were actually black holes. I didn’t know. He thought that was a good question for his Aunt Catherine, who has a PhD and studied black holes.

When I dropped him off, he ran off with hardly a backward glance. We were both sated from our time of connecting over Maya Angelou.

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