A Drum Beatdown

Drew’s new favorite book is Drummer Boy, a retelling of the Little Drummer Boy Christmas story. A little late for Christmas, I admit, but Drew tends to circle his books like big game stalking its prey — for weeks and weeks — before he comes in for the kill. Then it’s a lights-out marathon of nothing-but-the-new-book. We gorge ourselves on Drummer Boy every day, at naptime and at bedtime, and sometimes I dream about the Drummer Boy and hear his faint bum-bum-bum-boom-pat in the hum of the car engine or in the rhythm of the rain. I’m annoyed as heck.

I like the story’s twist, though. The drummer boy — ahem, THIS particular drummer boy — finds himself in many difficult and apparently random circumstances, blown hither and yon by the tide of fate: caught in thorn bushes, stranded at the top of a bell tower, dumped aimlessly in front of a snowman, caught in an owl’s next, punk’d by Ashton Kutcher. (Did you know that show is coming back?). I’m so kidding about Punk’d, but you get the idea — the drummer boy basically has a really bad week. But charmingly, at every junction, he quietly decides to keep on playing his drum for whomever or whatever might be around to listen. Because that’s what he does. He is a boy with a drum — in this case, he happens to be a TOY drummer boy, so he was made holding a drum — and gosh darn it, he is going to play his drum come what may. He even plays his drum for a bunch of gravestones. Intense, right?

At the end of the story, the drummer boy has found his way home and is finally placed on the mantel to “play” for the nativity figurines sitting there. The drummer boy takes a deep breath, looks down at the baby in the manger, and “plays his drum as never before: bum-bum-bum-boom-pat.

I get verclempt every time I read it. This means I cry a lot in my life right now. I, like the drummer boy, so often feel caught in difficult or random circumstances, days where it takes every bit of faith I have to Just. Keep. Mothering. To just do what I do and trust that it is enough and that I am enough.

Tonight Drew was just about as whiny as he ever gets, which means my rage was smoldering in my throat, aching to shoot out through my fingers and toes like a terrible reenactment of the “Beauty and the Beast” transformation. We finally got him in bed — finally the teeth were brushed, finally the toys were thrown into their respective piles, finally the Drummer Boy was read and the blankets were fetched and the sippy-cup-with-ice procured. Finally. Then the rain started. A few strobes of lightning. Have I mentioned Drew’s paranoia of storms?

Well, it was the perfect storm, because he spent 25 minutes whimpering at the top of the stairs before Gordon went and brought him down. I just couldn’t handle another moment with him, even to comfort a frightened child. I was out for the count. Drew’s crying sounded like an extension of his horrible day-long whine, and I just wanted to throw myself over a waterfall and take all the goodness and light in the world with me, but unfortunately I do not live around such dramatic landscaping. (Dramatic people shouldn’t, I don’t think.)

Drew spent the next hour watching the State of the Union with Gordon while I wrote in the next room. Occasionally I would hear Gordon making a retort. I can only guess what Drew thought was going on, as this was a huge departure from “Cars 2,” but I know he has added a new word to his vocabulary: obnoxious. Well. At least he will grasp what I mean when I mutter it post-grocery store.

After eating a Chips Ahoy and feeling generally better about life, I joined my two boys on the couch. Drew curled up into me like a skinny ferret and held completely still while the GOP was making its response. I looked down. His eyes were shifted over to mine, a grin trailing out across his face like ink from a leaking pen.

We carried him back upstairs, deposited him into bed, shut the door, and came back downstairs. The rain had stopped. The den was a wreck, the laundry was still wet in the washing machine. I picked up a broken shard of chalk and placed it in the Fisher Price easel and sunk into the armchair, placid. Another day gone by, and it turns out my boy still loves me after all. Turns out I still love him.

And I could just almost detect the faintest rhythm, maybe outside, or coming from upstairs, or maybe from inside my tired skull beneath its tangle of unwashed hair: bum-bum-bum-boom-pat, bum-bum-bum-boom-pat.

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