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Little Blue Boy
By Martha Randolph Carr

"He looks like one of the Blue Men, you know, from the Revolution."

Leave it to Dad to come up with an historical reference.

My small son, Louie, was three years old and standing at the front door clad in only his underwear, completely covered in an aqua blue coating. He had figured out his big, fat sticks of chalk dissolved in puddles. I was impressed with his attention to detail; even his eyelids and the backs of his ears were blue.

I wasn't surprised he was up to something. That was life as a single mother with Louie. Thank goodness I knew he was smarter than I was. That's what made it possible to look out a window and see him on his small tricycle, legs out to the sides, whizzing down our very steep driveway, his curly hair straightened by the wind blowing past him, and not worry. Or watch him attempt to pet every living creature, sometimes getting nipped by the geese down by the lake in the process, and not worry. Eventually the geese gave in and let him pet them, and he gently stroked their heads and chatted with them. They would turn their heads slightly and look at him till he was done talking.

He did get nipped a little hard once by a garden snake and it made him mad, very mad. His three-year-old self whipped the snake into a half-knot, for which he felt instantly sorrowful and he came to get me to help untie the snake.

"What?" I asked, in the middle of vacuuming. "You did what?"

"I tied a snake in a knot and I need you to help me untie it," he said, calmly.

I turned off the vacuum, still looking at his calm expression, wondering if maybe this all meant something else and I would find something else tied in a knot. Tied a snake in a knot?

There on the front step was a long black garden snake slowly, very slowly, untying itself from a very tight half-knot.

"Help it," Louie said.

"Why did you do it?" I asked.

"It bit me," he said, offering up his hand with a small red mark; no skin was broken. "Untie it," he repeated, looking back down at the snake, which was fortunately making progress on its own.

"No, it's getting somewhere. We'll let the snake handle this one."

Louie wasn't completely satisfied and stayed to make sure before depositing the snake back in the grass. It didn't try to bite him again.

I let Louie play in the front yard of our small neighborhood without me right next to him since he was three. We live there still in our red brick rancher, on a quiet cul-de-sac surrounded on one side by a small lake, and off of two other fairly quiet streets. Louie had been trying to break out of the house since he was two, sometimes successfully. I was worn out by the time he was three.

I didn't think his little hands at two years old could get the door open, but one day some elderly neighbors were showing me pictures they had recently taken and in one of them was Louie, smiling broadly, still in his pajamas, obviously outside without my knowledge. At the time, when I thought Louie was in his room, our next door neighbor, Murray, sometimes referred to as the King of the Cul-de-Sac by our neighbor who was deteriorating from Alzheimer's, came to my door with Louie in tow. My son had quietly, stealthily snuck out and gone next door to ask Murray if he could come out and play. That's when I started dead-bolting the doors.

"We can't get out, she locked the doors," he said glumly to my oldest sister, his Aunt Diana, the surgeon, who smiled in return. That clued Louie in.

"You know where the key is?" he asked. She refused to tell him, so he went back to scheming. For months Louie would ask every guest who ventured into the house, and was then locked in, if they were ready to go, could he walk them to their car. He did this with no expression on his face leaving them to think they were unwanted. I constantly had to explain that Louie was trying to sneak outside. "It's not you, I promise," I would say.

Getting him from the car to the house was always a long process. Louie wouldn't give in for at least fifteen minutes, sometimes a half hour, every time we pulled into the driveway, even if it was late at night and he was exhausted. He was outside and he saw it as precious time and he was going to stay out there even if he had to keep shaking his head to stay awake.

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