Fresh Air Macbeth

Every day, Liam sets his alarm for 6 a.m. then moves to the couch to finish his night’s sleep. Sometimes he hits snooze and his alarm goes off again at 6:10 a.m. Will’s alarm goes off at 6:23 a.m. And today, my alarm went off at 6:30 a.m. There’s no need for Bill to set an alarm given all of this daily, early morning ruckus.

This morning, I turned the Christmas tree lights on, watered the tree, made a cup of coffee, and decided I had time to sit and drink it. I went to the couch to find that Liam’s lanky legs had taken up two of the three cushions. I wiggled into the third. Most of him was under the plush blanket, but his head and feet stuck out either end. The distance from his head to his feet didn’t correlate. Surely there must be two boys under there and I’m seeing the head of one and the feet of another? How did these legs sprout like this? From September to the end of October, he grew an inch. We are getting closer and closer to seeing eye to eye – physically, not theoretically.

Liam’s eyes were closed. “Mom, can I have a bagel?” Yes, he must be growing; he’s asking for food in his sleep. He’s in 7th grade and will be thirteen in January. In the last couple of months, he has headed for bed without being asked to and without asking me to tuck him in. And, what is it that I’m feeling? A liberating sadness. Simultaneous polar opposite feelings are exhausting.

As his body stretches up, his humor bone is expanding with him. Liam’s word plays suck me in, and his dry one-liners catch us out.

Every turn of the season between summer and fall, the change from humid to dry air brings nosebleeds to the Malcolms. Liam was hit particularly hard this year. One late Sunday afternoon in October, the boys and I were headed to the Arnold Arboretum in Boston to see Shakespeare's Macbeth performed outside. A fog artist had set up five fog exhibits in Boston, and one was at the arboretum. The fog was set to roll continuously down a hill that was the stage – a fabulous setting for Macbeth.

That morning Liam had a torrential nosebleed, which he handled quite well, Kleenex after Kleenex, as he stood over the garbage can. Consequently, for the trip to the Arboretum, along with our chairs, blankets, snow pants, and hot cocoa, I packed an easily accessible lump of tissues.

We parked then walked nearly a mile to find a spot on the lawn by the hill. We set up camp, sat down on our beach chairs, and Liam’s nose took its cue for another gusher. Calmly, Liam accepted and exchanged tissues. I was trying to keep the blood-stained tissues out of sight from the crowd around us. From Liam’s nose, I whisked them quickly into a grocery bag. Liam looked at me as he sat patiently waiting for it to stop.

“It wouldn’t be Macbeth without a little blood, Mom.”