Monday, June 17, 2013

Guest Post: The Wife of a Lesser Man by Sandy Appleyard

A Pink Box for Christopher
Inspired from a true story, this is about a painfully quiet and shy seven year old boy, concerned parents, and a lesson.
Christopher was in grade one and barely spoke. He was sweet, well behaved and got along well with other kids. However, his parents were very concerned that his social skills were underdeveloped. They had him tested for Autism, hearing challenges and a battery of other things. He was completely healthy.
One day, Christopher’s mom and dad had a meeting with his teacher, Mrs. Baker. Christopher’s mom, Michelle, first asked how he was doing academically. According to the teacher, he was perfectly fine. His reading, writing, arithmetic and social studies skills were coming along well. Christopher’s dad, William, then asked how well he interacted with other children. Mrs. Baker said that while he was a very quiet boy, he made friends easily, particularly with one little girl named Marie.
They both watched as Christopher played with little Marie, however they were slightly concerned that he was playing with Barbie dolls, while other boys were playing with a makeshift construction site, building roads and buildings. Mrs. Baker said there was no need to worry, that some girls played with Tonka trucks and some boys played house. Michelle and William looked at each other and smiled. Maybe they were overreacting.
Michelle later took Christopher and his little broker Nathan out after school that day to buy some groceries. They were told that if they behaved well, that they would get to choose a small toy from the gumball machine. Both boys smiled gleefully and jumped up and down when they approached the machine and Michelle gave them each a coin to deposit for a prize. Nathan turned the crank and squealed with joy when he opened the small metal door and found a dinosaur figurine inside. When it was Christopher’s turn, he turned the crank, opened the door and frowned. He also got a dinosaur figurine. Michelle turned to him and asked why he was so sad. Christopher pointed to a heart shaped ring inside the machine. Michelle looked at him disapprovingly and said, “That’s for girls, honey.”
Michelle’s mother came over the next day to babysit the boys while Michelle went to work. She took them out for ice cream and then to the toy store. When Michelle and William arrived home that night, Michelle’s mom approached them laughing, “You’ll never believe what your son chose at the toy store.” Michelle looked at her mother puzzled, “What do you mean?” she said, smiling. Her mother showed her a Barbie doll with a pink dress and long blonde hair, “You wouldn’t believe the fuss he put up Michelle! You’d have laughed!” William eyed Michelle speculatively. She shrugged, but felt the same concern deep inside.
The next day Michelle picked Christopher and Nathan up from the school bus and immediately saw Christopher’s eyes light up. “Did you have a good day at school today?” she asked, returning his warm smile. Christopher opened his backpack excitedly and removed a pink furry little penguin that he’d made at school. The penguin had lipstick, earrings and long hair. Michelle held her hand out, “Is that for me?” she asked. Christopher’s face fell as he slowly cradled it in his hands, almost guarding it from her. “That’s ok sweetheart. You can keep it.” Michelle said reluctantly.
As they were walking home from the bus, Christopher found a bright pink heart shaped ring on the ground, very similar to the one in the gumball machine he’d seen the other day. He picked it up and showed Michelle with his one hundred watt smile. She inspected it, and noticed it was in perfect condition. William saw it in Christopher’s hand as he greeted them at the door. “Whatcha got there buddy?” he asked. Christopher displayed it in his hand. William didn’t have the heart to take it from him, instead he said, “You know pink is for girls, right?” Christopher nodded and William gave him a gentle pat on the head, eyeing Michelle with pursed lips.
The weekend came and Michelle told the boys that she was going to run some errands, and they were to stay home and play with Daddy. Christopher approached Michelle with sad eyes, “What’s wrong honey?” she asked, bending down to his level. “We don’t have any boxes.” he said, almost tearfully. Michelle ran her hand through his hair, “Would you like me to get you one while I’m out?” Christopher nodded and smiled. Then as she walked away, he grabbed her gently. She turned around, “What is it honey?” she whispered. “A pink one.” he said, smiling brightly. Michelle nodded.
William saw her pale face as she walked out the door, “What’s wrong sweetie?” he asked, kissing her gently. “It’s Christopher. He wants me to get him a pink box….is there something wrong with him? I mean, are we completely crazy? Or do all boys like pink Barbies, rings, pink penguins and all things pink? Are we overreacting?” she asked, fighting the lump in her throat. William held her tight against his chest and stroked her back. “The doctors say he’s fine. The teacher says the same….maybe he’ll grow out of it.” he said unconvincingly.
When Michelle returned, she unloaded all the parcels and saw Christopher patiently waiting for her to finish, eyeing the pink box sitting in the grocery bag. She gave it to him and he kissed her cheek. Michelle prepared dinner and called Christopher and Nathan out to join them at the dinner table. Nathan strolled in a few minutes later, but Christopher was still in his room. William tried calling him, noting that this was highly unusual for Christopher to be disobedient.
Michelle got up from the table and went to check on him. William heard her crying from his bedroom and went to see what was wrong. He found Michelle sitting beside Christopher on the floor, holding him and rocking him back and forth, stroking his hair. Beside Christopher was the pink box. Inside it was the Barbie doll, pink penguin and the ring he found. He was composing a little note that said, “Happee Berfday Marie. Love Christopher.”
William bent down to the floor and wrapped his arms around Michelle and Christopher. He could think of nothing to say except, “I guess actions do speak louder than words.”

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