Luddyduddy, Robin says. Luddyduddy luddyduddy. In his car seat, under the hood of the stroller, Luddyduddy, his head nodding with meaning.
Lately, he’s refused to nap in the afternoons. Little shrieks and yelps pierce his room, his door, and collect in shards around the legs of my chair. Then, far away, Luddyduddy luddyduddy, until he rests again.
For my birthday, Stewart bought me a pitcher from a fancy glass factory in Vermont. Stewart bought me three pitchers, in fact, from the fancy glass factory in Vermont. Wrapped inside the box, there was another box, and another. Goldilocks, I studied each, differently shaped, but the same. Lined up, they were lit, thick, and redundant, like three frosted birthday cakes. Three? I thought, delighted by the deluxe absurdity.
Earlier this week, my dad called. I was parked in the grocery lot with Robin watching the cars pull in and out. We talked March Madness—the upsets, the losses, all the games played. We talked about winter, how it’s still here, every ten-day forecast mocking us.
I told him Stewart’s dad is sick, sick like my mother, really sick. I told him we were moving, that we were spent, that I quit my job. I told him as one car pulled away, and another pulled in; as someone returned a cart to the cart line, and then someone took one away.
Yesterday, Stewart found the top of my head surrounded by box towers. We’d been collecting moving boxes—free ones from the side of the road—for the past few weeks. I wrapped every cheap fork in every faded towel and tucked them inside a lidless baking dish. I sat in the middle of our stolen fort, glad I knew, for once, where everything we owned lived.
It’s worse than we thought, his dad. Since my mother was diagnosed with the same illness a year-and-a-half-ago my question has been, What does that mean? Tumor markers come back, What does that mean? CAT scan results, What does that mean? Dim prognoses, What does that mean? The answer, from every parent, a tired, I don’t know. Or, You’re looking for answers that don’t exist. Don’t exist? I think. At all? And inside the question, another question, and another. Inside the months, more months, more winter.
So, we’re moving, to Birmingham, to San Francisco, to Philly. Box on box. Plate on glass. We’re moving.
We sat surrounded by used boxes, marked with the shorthand of some other family, already gone, and we wondered. Where’s the place they know how much time is in a month? Where’s the place where the markers mean something? Where is winter not?
That night Stewart gave Robin a bath. Upstairs, I heard them both, Luddyduddy luddyduddy. Impressed, Stewart called me to the sound, miming the syllables with an exaggerated mouth.
“It’s something you can do with your tongue, but you never have to,” he said. You never have to, I thought.
But here we are, everyday, Luddyduddy luddyduddy. The absurd repetition, the question towers and the nonsense inside, our life just Luddyduddy luddyduddy. What does that mean?
At moving’s end, I sat admiring my tallest birthday pitcher. Its wall broke the window, which broke the trees outside. And I thought, Luddyduddy luddyduddy. I counted the boxes, considering the forks inside. Luddyduddy luddyduddy. In my mind, we moved to Birmingham, to San Francisco, to Philly. Luddyduddy luddyduddy.
Meanwhile, Robin crawled to the only free wall in the apartment. Huge rectangles of light swallowed him as he opened his right hand and slapped the sun, over and over again. I watched him; relieved he had found something that arrested motion, something that responded to a fist. And for the last time, we sat, Luddyduddy luddyduddy, facing this wall.