Celebrating a holiday and second chance to be with my son

Celebrating a holiday and second chance to be with my son

  • By Sharisse Tracey Special to The Washington Post
  • Saturday, December 17, 2016 1:30am
  • Life

By Sharisse Tracey

Special to The Washington Post

“What do you want for Christmas, mom?” my 21-year-old son Tracey asked.

I hadn’t heard this since he was a little boy and bought gifts with money he’d saved from recycling cans. Frankly, I wished for a peaceful season with our blended family and not the nightmare from holidays past.

Tracey and I reconnected when he came to stay at our new home in Washington state. He was finally with our family after four years. My hope was that he and my husband would rekindle the close connection they’d once had so that I could have my family back.

Holiday sentiment and hopefulness were a welcome addition to our changing family dynamic.

Everyone was excited about his homecoming, but no one could feel the relief of a child’s return like a mother.

I was pleasantly surprised when Tracey completed job applications the day after he landed. He was hired within days of touching down in Seattle. On his days off, he assumed the responsibility of taking my mother to her frequent doctor’s appointments. The clerks at the store complimented Tracey on how attentive he was to his grandmother. In the morning when I’d get my little kids ready for school, the trash was emptied and the dishes would be washed.

I noticed the effort he was making, but I wasn’t sure whether it would continue.

One day, Tracey asked why I didn’t have him watch his little brother and sister. I recalled past phone conversations with him babysitting his siblings and keeping up with chores. My son didn’t complain, but I never liked what I heard on the other end of the phone. It felt like a modern-day Cinderfella. I didn’t want that life here for him, so I reminded him that he would be responsible for doing his share as a part of our family, but that he didn’t have to earn his keep.

My husband noticed his efforts, too. He asked Tracey what time he’d be home from work so we could eat as a family, or he would make sure to leave a dinner plate out for him. I overheard casual exchanges about sports. Both football fanatics, Mike and Tracey bonded over their dislike of the local team but gave respect to their fans. My son, a Philadelphia Eagles fan, hated Mike’s Carolina Panthers, and they exchanged endless trash talk during every game, especially as their teams faced off.

“So sowee,” Mike said (mimicking the sound of a child) when his team took the lead.

“Whatever, man. That’s all right,” Tracey chuckled.

The conversation was so normal. I was moved by how hard they were both trying.

I didn’t realize how much Tracey had matured until he accompanied me to run errands with his siblings. He volunteered to go. We talked, laughed and reminisced, as we’d pick up his favorite brand of Doritos chips that I’d always find not so cleverly hidden under his bed. Tracey accused me of being an ice cream hoarder in frozen foods. I didn’t deny it. He was patient and calm, helping to carry my bags like a gentleman.

Most young people get derailed at some point, and children from fluid families often have more complicated circumstances. I reminded my husband of that. Tracey became the man I’d raised him to be — despite the detour he took as a teenager. I’d spent too many holidays without my son and my heart always felt the weight of his absence. It was time for our blended family to really blend.

“So what should I get you, mom?” he asked again.

“A manicure and a pedicure would be lovely,” I told Tracey, who seemed like he very much wanted to buy me something.

“Perfect,” he said.

But I had to add: “That’s just the bow. You’ve already given me the gift.”

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