Bud and I were invited to a Solstice Party on Friday night. It was a kid-friendly party, for which people were invited to wear yellow and orange and bring summery snacks and juices. The main activity of the evening centered around an outdoor bonfire on the snowy ground, with voices raised together to call back the sun.
I told Bud about the party on Thursday and gave him full control over the decision of whether or not to attend. He didn't even pause before he answered: he wanted to go. The Solstice Party was all he talked about for the next 24 hours, and he was so upbeat about it that I think he only half-listened when I told him what to expect.
As we drove toward the house on Friday night, though, Bud began to have second thoughts.
"I'll just wait in the car," Bud announced as we neared the driveway.
"No, I'd like to go in and see everyone," I said.
"I'll wait for you, Mama," he said. "In the car."
"Let's just give it a try, Bud," I said. "If you don't like it, we can go home."
"I don't like it," he said. But he climbed out of the car and walked with me to the door and seemed willing to give it all a chance.
As soon as the door opened, I wondered what I'd been thinking. Let me paint the picture for you:
This was the first time Bud had been out of the house since his surgery.
It was his regular bedtime.
There were not many people in attendance, but most of them were strangers to us.
The place was swarming with cousins. They were the sort of cousins that are old enough to walk, so while there were actually only four in attendance, it felt more like there were sixteen of them.
As we arrived, one of the cousins was crying.
We'd accidentally left Bud's iPod at home.
There were two older children there as well. They were crawling on the floor, barking and pretending to be dogs.
There were two real-life cats darting through the crowd.
Bud turned to me immediately and said, "I don't think so, Mom."
I guided him into the house, hoping that in a few minutes we'd all settle in a bit. I tried to direct Bud to the cookies, to the toys, to the people he knew. I put my hands over his ears. I let him crawl into my lap. And I prepared myself for the meltdown.
The meltdown never came, but Bud never settled in. He tried, but there was just too much, too many, too late, too far. He gave it 25 minutes and half a cookie, then came to me and said with authority, "It's time to go."
I got our coats and boots and we said our goodbyes as the other guests started eating their first snacks and waited for the party to get underway. Our friends, the hosts, rolled with it beautifully as if this had been the plan all along. I wondered briefly what their friends, the strangers, thought, then decided that people who go to Solstice Parties are probably predisposed to roll with this sort of thing as well.
As Bud and I crunched through the snow back to our car, he said brightly, "That was a great party!"
"It was a great party," I said. "Do you think you'd like to come back another time?"
"Yes," he said.
We drove home and got ready for bed, and Bud was asleep before our friends started calling back the sun.
The next morning, I woke to Bud's voice in my ear, asking, "Did you have fun at the party, Mama?"
"I sure did, Bud. Did you have fun at the party?"
"I had fun," he answered. "That was a great party."
As I lay in bed and thought about the way Bud managed the party and framed his memory of it, the lyrics of Sheryl Crow's "Soak up the Sun" filled my head:
"It's not having what you want,
It's wanting what you've got.
I'm gonna soak up the sun."
He's amazing, that boy. He gives me new perspective every day.
It's wanting what you've got.
I'm gonna soak up my son.