Swearing under my breath I ran back to the apartment from the truck. I was already running late, but there weren't any better options. The present had slid off the seat and torn the wrapping paper. Certainly Festus wouldn't mind, but I would. I grabbed the tape from the dining room table, locked the door on my way out, and ran back to the truck. I pulled my phone from my pocket and sent a text informing Ms Scarlet that I would be late.
A little better than twenty minutes later I was standing on Ms Scarlet and Prof Plum's front porch. The wrapping paper had been easily repaired. Ms Scarlet greeted me with a hug. Instead of the usual upbeat greeting we normally exchange this one was tinged with concern.
"How are you doing?" she asked. The tone of her voice and non-verbal communication made it clear what she meant. It was the kind of inquiring you hear in a hospital waiting room. There's no condemnation, judgement, or expectation in it. Instead there was concern and love.
We quickly moved on to having our evening. Highlights included Festus trading off between chasing and being chased by every adult in the house. His refrain became "we should run as fast as we can". We continued to play and chat. Before dinner Festus opened his belated Christmas present. It was a hit. As the evening wore on Festus was alternately sweet and surly. No one was particularly surprised by this and everyone handled it well. Despite his occasional surly grunting or silence, there was still an important development in my relationship with my son that night.
When we were playing he made an unusual choice in sentence construction that only a young child would think to do. He talked about being chased by "my mommy". He said he should be picked up by "my daddy". He laughed when proclaiming he was going to "get my *******". My name became a title. More importantly I became someone he chose to claim as his own. It was clear and distinct. He knows my name because he knows and wants me.
After Festus went to bed the real conversation began. I had sent Ms Scarlet and Prof Plum an e-mail explaining the barest facts of what had been going on in my life. Chief among those are the split with Athena and her desire to pull back from seeing Festus. This visit was the first time the three of us had seen each other since November. There was a lot of ground to cover. We glossed over the broader topics, which left time and energy for the real issues at hand - our relationships. We talked about my relationship with Athena, their relationship with her and her family, my relationship with her family, and how all of this related to the little boy who was asleep upstairs. Initially I was nervous. I didn't know what to expect which always puts me on edge. As the conversation deepened so did my comfort. When the conversation was wrapping up I realized how much I valued the two people I'd just spent my Sunday evening with.
Beyond my relationship with Festus I appreciate having Prof Plum and Ms Scarlet in my life. It's great to have a friendship with two people who are so, well, adult in their relationships. They're responsible, well adjusted, grounded individuals with good heads on their shoulders. It's strange to understand that I had to be reminded of that. They bring the qualities that make them good parents to their friendships and family relationships too. The reasons I felt they would be excellent parents for Festus are the same reasons I like to spend time with them.
I'm glad I was reminded that I don't visit just to see Festus. I visit to see my family members that live in that household, all three of them.