Because Archer doesn't care for movies while Cady Gray loves them, Noel periodically take Cady Gray to whatever kids' flick might be playing at the theaters. When he does, I get to have time with Archer.
It's sometimes a challenge to think of something Archer would like to do with his mom. But today as we were driving home from lunch, he caught sight of the local bowling alley. "Um, the Conway Family Bowl is open July the fourth," he told us rather urgently, reading off the sign. "It's hot outside but 68 degrees inside." "Would you like to go bowling this afternoon?" I asked. "I would like to do that," he answered in his odd, formal way.
I knew he would. There would be electronic scoring and some arcade games to play afterwards. So while Cady Gray and Dad went to see Ice Age 3, we went bowling.
It was a little painful to see him struggling with the eight-pound ball, the lightest we could find, thudding it onto the alley to roll slowly toward the pins and bump off the raised alley bumpers. But he worked very hard at putting the right fingers in the holes and swinging his arm back in a pendulum motion, although he tended not to let go in the middle of flinging his arm forward as if pushing away a playground bully.
As for me, it took a while for me to remember the motions. So many of my first balls went into the gutter that Archer won the first game 84-81. But I rallied to score three strikes and two spares in the second game, winning handily. Then we played air hockey, which Archer won to his delight, and played a video driving game.
In the car I asked him where he wanted to go get ice cream, and he chose Dairy Queen. We ordered an Oreo and hot fudge Blizzard. As we were walking to our table with the treat, Archer grasped my hand briefly. "A pretend lollipop for you," he announced with an excited smile on his face.
We ate, with Archer announcing that he needed two bites whenever I took a bite too close to his side of the cup. I realized as we sat there companionably that he was truly enjoying himself -- feeling, in his way, the specialness of the occasion. As I gathered our empty cup and utensils and stood up to go, he began waving his hand strangely.
"What's that?" I asked.
"It's a pretend toy plane, bringing you a pretend letter." He landed his hand and pressed empty air into mine. His eyes were alight, and I realized he was trying to convey to me his understanding that this was a special occasion.
"What does it say?"
"Dear Donna," he began, standing up and twirling a bit in his exuberance. "Thank you for the bowling game. I really enjoyed it. Love, Archer."