When my son was 2 years old, we accidently created a ritual. While he napped I would clean up the play-shelf that was mounted beneath the window in our den. I arranged the scattered array of miniature animals, tiny 'fisher price' people, cars, and other objects in playful poses on the shelf where they lived.
Our family bed consisted of a mattress and box-springs on the floor in our bedroom. Waking up, he would climb off the bed, walk silently past me, and head for the shelf that held his tiny populated world.
I watched with delight while he surveyed the scene, then immediately began to rearrange everything until he achieved precisely the set design he wanted. Each day he would produce a different exhibit. Then he would come find me calling excitedly, “Come see, momma—come see!”
When he graduated with a degree in film studies, his passion was to be a D.P. (director of photograpy). He called the shots and orchestrated the scenes in his graduation movie. I was honored when he invited us to observe him in action as he filmed on location. It was just like the shelf in his room, except that he did the script, casting, and directing, of ‘real people’, on a set that he arranged.
Fast-forward through three years of living on his own, gainfully employed in his craft until the economy collapsed, when he had to move back in with ‘the parents’. Suddenly, the wonderful relationship, which we had all developed as adult friends, was put to many tests. Living together under one roof, again, with all the ghosts of time-past eager to resurrect themselves—we weren’t always sure where we stood with this very private, autonomous, and outspoken young man.
So, one afternoon when I was alone in the house, feeling apprehensive about how this trial living situation might impact our three-way bond, my gaze caught something amiss on the fireplace mantle. My little figurine of two monkeys, with their arms around each other was perched upon one edge of the brick mantle-top. They were exactly where I had placed them months ago. But on the opposite corner of the mantle something was missing. It was a rubber bend-a-toy figure of Tim Burton’s lead character Jack, ‘The Pumpkin King’, from one of our son’s favorite movies: The Nightmare Before Christmas. He had rediscovered Jack as he was going through his things.
Without saying anything to anyone, I had placed the figure on the opposite end of the mantle from the hugging monkeys, bending the long legs so that Jack was relaxed with knees crossed and leaning back on one elbow. Now, seeing that Jack was gone, I felt a twinge of concern. Then I noticed something strange about the monkey couple. They were not alone. Jack was standing behind them, bending over with his arms wrapped around them both. A happy threesome.
I laughed out loud as I saw it. And I knew in that instant that everything would be all right.