Thankfully, I awoke in a dry bed. My first pair of Goodwill PJ’s now felt a little baggy on me, but I didn’t care. I’ll probably always carry this vision that one of the greatest super heroes of all time, Batman … is a bedwetter. It wasn’t me, it was him.
I was still missing bunny rabbit but I was kind of glad that I didn’t take a ride with him in the clothes dryer. What was I thinking?
A full length mirror hung on the inside door of my boy’s room. With a bit of trepidation, I took the few steps necessary to check out my appearance and was relieved to see that I had indeed changed a little since yesterday. I didn’t look quite so babyish. I estimated that I was now nine years old. My still too-large PJ bottoms slipped off my waist and fell to the floor. Not much had changed there. What was I expecting, hair on my dick?
What to wear? Since I was on my way to ten by the end of the day, I figured it would be better just to wear my ‘tens’ clothes and tighten my belt. The tee shirts weren’t too big.
I really like these mornings when I can get up and smell something good coming from the kitchen. Sammantha had cooked up hot oatmeal and I had a big smile on my face as I greeted her.
“Hi Mom! I just love when you make breakfast. Maybe I can do it for you one day.”
“That would be great, sweety … But what happened to ‘Mommy’? I thought that was a real term of endearment.”
“Sorry, Mom, I’ve permanently retired ‘Mommy.’ That was for eight-year-olds. Can’t you see I’m nine now?”
Samantha spooned out a good size portion of oatmeal in my bowl. “I suppose you could have a birthday every day. Oh, and you can go fish out your bunny rabbit from the dryer now.
“Thanks. Sorry I wet the bed last night. Sorry I woke you up. How could you stand me?”
“Don’t be silly. I’m your mom. Here, add some brown sugar and raisons to your oatmeal. You’ll love it.”
“I loved oatmeal when I was big Derrek, too. So Mom, don’t you have to go to work? Am I keeping you from your job?”
“No, sweety. I’m lucky I can make my own hours … and I can also work from home in remote sessions with patients on my laptop. I’m going to take care of some of those this morning.”
I was wondering where that would leave ‘little’ Derrek. I suppose I could play with my cars or watch TV. Apparently, Samantha was reading my mind.
“So sweety, would you like to go to school today?”
I cringed. That was a real mood breaker. In my small child’s voice I answered, “Mom, would it be okay if I said no for today? I mean, it would be kind of weird for me to go to fourth grade today and fifth grade tomorrow.”
“I was just gauging your mood, Derrek. You still don’t like the idea of going to school?”
“The thought makes me very nervous, Mom. It makes me think that I’m going to have to stay a child for a very long time and go through the boring parts instead of the fun parts. I enjoy doing stuff with you. You really are one of the ‘cool’ moms. Our morning at the gym yesterday was incredible. If you put on a cape you would be a super hero.”
“Those are very kind words, sweety, and I appreciate the sentiment. I’ll agree to table our ‘back-to-school’ discussion for a later date. If you can just hang out in the apartment till noon, we’ll be going on an afternoon outing.”
“Oh, yes … the Aquarium of Niagara … It’s just 30 minutes north of Buffalo.”
I swallowed hard. “Uh, Mom … I hate to break the news to you, but aquariums usually have lots and lots of water.”
“And that’s exactly why we’re going, sweety.”
“But why??” I asked with alarm. “Do you intend to turn me into a baby?”
“I could do that just by giving you a bath.”
“True, but doesn’t taking me to an aquarium pose just as much risk as taking me to a swimming pool?”
Sammantha tilted her head. “Maybe … maybe not. That’s what we’re going to find out.”
“I’m really worried, Mom.”
“Don’t be. After a day like yesterday, do you think I would not take care of you?”
I mulled over my options and concluded, “I trust you, Mom … I’ll go.”
The Aquarium of Niagara was a wonderful museum. Sammantha and I spent hours visiting all the tanks and exhibits. I gradually became comfortable with the experience simply because no one was throwing water at me. It was all in the tanks. They even had a glass tunnel where we watched sharks swim over our heads. And the tiny Humboldt penguins were quite comical in their antics.
As we were about to exit, Sammantha stopped and snapped her fingers. “Oh wait, sweety, there’s one more exhibit that we missed. Let’s go back and check it out.”
She led me a long way … past most of the attractions we had already seen. Then she took my hand, and I wondered why. When I found out, it sent chills up my spine. As we got closer, I tried to pull away, but she wouldn’t let me. She gripped my left hand like a vise and led me even closer.
I started to whimper. “Please, Mom, no.”
The little children in front of me were having so much fun … but I was petrified and I thought I might pee in my pants (again).
“Walk up to the edge, Derrek,” she ordered, and practically dragged me forward.
I knew that since she didn’t call me ‘sweety’, this had to be very serious.
I begged her, “Please, Mommy, no … no.”
She scoffed, “Oh, we’re back to ‘Mommy’ now. Do I have an eight-year-old with me?”
We had reached the interactive ‘touch pool.’ She ignored my tears and my pleas and ordered me to, “pet the stingray, Derrek” as gleeful toddlers reached into the water.
One of the aquarium staff members got down on one knee and tried to reassure me. “It’s okay, little guy … Our stingrays have their barbs clipped. They can’t hurt you.”
“They hurt Steve Irwin!” I yelled back at him. That was probably a rude thing to say on my part. The staff member obviously had no idea of my problem. I wasn’t afraid of the stingrays, but I was deathly afraid of touching the water.
Samantha then got down to my level and held both my hands. “Sweety, look at me. This is Mom talking. I would never do anything to hurt you. The only way you can overcome your fear is to trust me. You need to trust me now. This is the time and the place where YOU have to be the super hero. You can do this. Be brave. Go to the edge of the pool and pet the stingray.”
After a few seconds, Sammantha let go of me and I wiped the tears from my eyes. I then stepped toward the touch pool. There were plenty of stingrays to pet but I wished I had been asked to pet a dog or a cat instead.
I looked back at Sammantha and she said, “I love you, sweety.”
I figured that the worst that could happen was that I would become a baby … but I didn’t want to be a baby, wetting my bed every night. But I couldn’t disappoint my mom by running away. I reached into the water and touched the sting ray.
The friendly animal felt soft and spongy. The top layer was, in a way, similar to fine sandpaper. He swam by and I reached for the next ray. Their quivering wings had a calming effect on me and I kept my right hand in the water waiting to pet more rays. I lost track of time and eventually immersed both my hands in the pool. Now, I didn’t want to leave.
Sammantha was very patient with me and must have stood by my side for at least thirty minutes.
“Are you ready to go now, sweety?”
I stood back up and calmly replied, “Okay.”
As we retreated from the touch pool, I looked at my reflection in one of the fish tanks. “Mom, why am I still nine years old?”
She stopped and looked me over, sizing me up. “No, If I had to guess, I would say that you’re back to ten now.”
“But why didn’t I get younger?”
“Sweety, these stingrays are salt water animals. And I had a strong hunch that salt water wouldn’t affect you any more than a powdered fruit drink.
I thought about that for a second. “So would that mean that I would be able to go swimming at an ocean beach?”
“Can we go tomorrow?” I asked impatiently.
“Probably not. Woodlawn Beach is on Lake Erie and that’s fresh water so we won’t go there, but we’ll definitely have to put an ocean beach trip on our ‘to do’ list. How’s that?”
That would be great, Mom … and thanks for taking me here. I’m sorry I didn’t trust you.”
Sammantha put her arm around my shoulder. “I wanted you to overcome your fears, sweety … on your own terms.”
For dinner after the aquarium, we stopped at a Piada Italian street food restaurant. While standing in line, I told Sammantha, “I’m glad you don’t cook much, Mom. Going out to eat with you is like a date every time.’
“Oh, I thought you were going to say that you’re glad I don’t cook much because you think my cooking is terrible.”
I was standing behind her and I was feeling playful. Rubbing against her body was becoming a passion. So instead of answering her quip, I put my arms around her rock hard belly and squeezed, while announcing, “I love my mommy!”
She smirked, adding, “I see that eight-year-old Derrek has come out to play again. So sweety, do you know what you want to order?
“Piada’s is one of my favorites. I always get pasta carbonera without spinach.”
“You’re in luck. Today it comes with the spinach.”
“But, Mom, I said I don’t want …” Uh oh, she’s giving me that look again … about to ‘explain’ something … “You know, Mom, spinach is actually quite tasty, and I’ll have some milk to drink too if that’s okay.”
“I’m glad to see that you’re learning how to make good choices, sweety.”