Reaching into the back of the pantry, what do I touch? It’s an old superball all sticky with David’s little boy hands, and it’s been waiting there for more than forty years. His favorite superball. I almost remember the day he lost it, how he was so frustrated and little-boy sad.
The swirling colors on the ball are hidden under dirt and dust, but it still has that rubber smell he liked at the magic age of seven. He loved this superball. It’s so small and dense, I think that, when it bounced so easily and so high, it made him feel like a superboy. He was small and concentrated too, that child I once knew better than anyone in the world.
How can my son, who is forty-seven, be the same being, but so radically different from that beautiful boy I would give anything to see again? How can I, too, be the same but completely different from the fiercely protective young mother with her whole life ahead? This ball in my hand takes me to them, those people in the past we came from. Time travel by means of a superball stuck in the back of the pantry for over forty years.
The physicists say time depends on where you are standing in the cosmos. So I’ll just move over, in my superpower called the imagination, to the spot where I can see David was he was seven years old. I’m a single mother who sometimes panics at the total responsibility for another human being, but this morning as I sip my coffee, and David bounces that dang superball all over the kitchen, I’m content. I’m deeply grateful he came to me, this boy of stars with the sweetest face and Brazilian eyes so deeply dark I could look into them for hours.
Then the sticky superball—good grief!— bounces right into my perfect cup of coffee! Which spills, in a slow motion film clip, onto the kitchen table. I jump up with a yell and then there is an instant of pure suspension, when neither of us has any idea how the scene will go. But I burst out laughing, and a millisecond later, so does David. Then we’re howling in the morning kitchen sunlight, until we double up, until we fall down laughing, holding our bellies, united in joy. Oh yes, I remember the energy between us. Even if the ball never landed in the coffee as it did in this time journey, I remember now, the delightful play of energy between us. I experience again the motherbond that transformed me from girl to woman.
And how is it, when the coffee erupts from the cup, that I can laugh? Why am I able to treat the experience so lightly, instead of with the frustration or impatience I often showed during those years? Because I came back to this kitchen of our young selves from my future appreciation of the precious connection, because I have traveled here carrying my future consciousness, I can laugh and be grateful for the miracle of our bond. The superball that I reached to find way back in the deep pantry, really was magical. It propelled me to reach and find my younger self and my son’s younger self, back there in the deep pantry of memory.
This flash fiction was generated at Juice, the weekly write-to-a-prompt group I started here with a friend in January. This morning’s prompt was “Reaching into the Back of the Pantry”. The prompt opened the back pantry of my imagination to receive the superball, and the superball opened the back pantry of memory. So fiction led to the deeper truth of creative nonfiction. Though there was no actual scene like this with my son, the metaphor engendered by the prompt delivered me straight into the delightful core of our relationship!