There is a wonderful and terrible short story by Ray Bradbury called “All Summer in a Day”. It’s about a little girl, Margot, who moved to Venus from Earth and longs for the sunshine because it always rains on Venus. She is terribly distraught and the other children make fun of her because they have never seen sunshine and think she’s making it up. They lock her in a closet and during her time in the closet, the sun comes out for one hour. The children are amazed and play in the sun. It begins to rain again, perhaps for good, and when they return to the classroom, they remember that Margot is still locked in the closet and she missed it.
The story is heartbreaking.
Two reasons for this story. The first is that I just bought our entire summer. A bike for my husband- either two months late for birthday, or one month early for Father’s Day, but just what he needs this summer and on sale at Target, a family pool pass at our local pool, three swim suits, two weeks of summer camp for the children while I teach this June and a language arts (Michael Thompson’s work) and math curriculum (Singapore Math) activity to keep them- and me- still connected with learning. Our whole summer came down to this one day of planning. Phew! Lots of biking, lots of beach, lots of pool, lots of learning.
And secondly, having a child with no single label, but characteristics of many, is somewhat like waiting for the sunshine while it rains on Venus. We remember the sun, we remember the moments of joy, but then the rain sets in and doesn’t let up. You plan, you buy lots of things for good times, and then you wait… wondering if the good times will really and truly materialize. If you’ll get your money’s worth. If it will happen as you’ve hoped.
Ray spent all day Sunday at home, grounded in his room for much of it. He was horrible to me. Horrible to his dad. Horrible to his sister. He pushed every button and got on every nerve. At one point, I left to go walk on the beach to find balance- and to avoid throwing things. James and I alternated taking Elizabeth out- to a soccer party for Ray’s team that James coached, to the pool, to Target. All day long Ray growled; he sulked; he insulted my cooking. I sat at the table after dinner with my head in my hands while James and I just looked at each other mutely. “I just don’t see how it can continue,” I wondered. “I know,” he said back, equally numb.
It ended with Ray finally choking down his hamburger and five bites of spinach. We then all went for an inaugural bike ride that lasted all of about 10 minutes as we did the loop in our neighborhood. And during this ride, after all day long of blackness, something clicked. Ray came back coherent. And cute. And giggly. And we ended the weekend, snuggled up watching “Extreme Home Makeover”- Ray’s favorite show- and he said in a small voice, “I love you, Mommy”.
We always analyze- what set him off? He’s starting to come down sick. Is that it? Maybe he’s hungry with low blood sugar- a battle we fight constantly with Ray. Maybe that was it. Maybe he’s anxious about the end of school and asking for consistency. And what helped? Exercise? Food? Knowing the weekend was ending?
Ray’s good moments are like sunshine on Venus… and it’s heartbreaking.