“A mother understands what a child does not say.” Yiddish Proverb
Our baby son, Jayson, was healthy and happy for the first two years of his life. Like rose petals, his pink chubby cheeks glistened in the sun and a finger curl waved “Hello” on the top of his head. Two front teeth, the color of seed pearls, gave him a slight over-bite that endeared his smile to the world. His first words were, “MaMa,” and “GaGa” touching our hearts forevermore. The letter “D” was hard for him to pronounce, but his daddy knew exactly what he meant.
As most mothers do, I took him every six weeks for all of his pediatric visits. Even afterward, I never hesitated for a minute to call his doctor for the slightest fever or cold. Other than ear infections, Jayson was deemed healthy at every visit. There was never any question, never any doubt. He received all of the required vaccines, blood tests, and measurements of which his doctor compared to the chart he kept hidden under his wing. Everywhere we went people stopped and stared. Jayson was a “Gerber” baby in every way. He said his first words at six months and took his first steps at eight, bringing his father and I to tears.
My youngest sister was about to be married when Jayson was around the age of two. She honored me by asking him to be her “Ring-Bearer.” Soon we shopped for a mini-tuxedo, all white polyester and satin bought from J.C. Penney. Jayson did fine at the rehearsal, and once dressed he looked as though he had stepped out of the catalog pages himself. A little “model boy” in every way. I was in the wedding party too, so I had “two” roles to play. As a young mother, I was nervous that my “baby” son would last the entire ceremony so I hid a few animal cookies in my bouquet. I brought a box from home and we had eaten a few while getting ready before the ceremony.
The wedding music played beautifully while the church filled with guests. The minister took his esteemed place at the altar, Bible in hand. As the wedding march began, everyone took their assigned places in order for the ceremony to begin. Jayson walked down the aisle like the little man-child he was. Everyone ‘oohed and aahed.’ He looked so charming in his little man’s tuxedo, smiled with pride and stood exactly as rehearsed. About half-way through the reading of the vows, my perfect son turned into a demon-child, the likes of which I had never seen before. He ran from his place at the altar and all around the church. My mother, bless her soul, got up from her pew to corral him in a corner, where she swept him up and gently took him outside the vestibule. Without adieu, my sister and her husband-to-be were pronounced, “Man and Wife.”
Shortly afterward, it was time for the photographer to take pictures, but Jayson was too out of control. Every time he was supposed to be positioned in a scene, he was uncontrollable to the point of running, jumping, and even spitting water out of the drinking fountain. The child I once knew did anything and everything he could to expend his extra energy. I didn’t have the answer, but something was wrong. This was not my normal son.
After pictures were taken my husband and I took Jayson to his babysitter’s house where he would spend the night while we went to the wedding reception. He had calmed down by then, sat quietly in my lap, and rested his head against my shoulder where I soothed him. The car was silent, exhaustion had set in. “I’m sorry, MaMa. I don’t know why I was so bad,” my innocent son whispered. “That’s alright,” I answered, cuddling him close to me. “Don’t feel bad. We’ll figure it out.”
At the reception, my mother told me she had stayed on at the church to help clean the dressing room out. The box of animal cookies I had brought had been left on the table. It was nearly empty. There were no other children in the wedding party. No other children who were in the dressing room.
Jayson was never photographed in a single picture at my sister’s wedding.