As the boy scrambled into the car Thursday, he turned to me and smiled. “I have to wear my pajamas tomorrow to school.” This was a big deal in the world of a soon-to-be 6-year-old. He wanted to wear his Snoopy Santa PJs. A few hours later, he ran up to me, caught his breath, and said, “I can’t find my Catboy pajamas. Can I wear them?”
I told him I’d find them. Where could they be, but in the laundry, after all?
But after the kids went to bed, I checked and couldn’t find them. Later on, Molly got into the hunt.
Then I finally found them. They were inside a sweater of mine in a pile of washed laundry that was waiting to be folded.
In the morning, sleepy-eyed, he stretched his jaw as he meandered with concrete feet down the hall. “I found your Catboy pajamas.” He snapped to attention. Like Ralphie Parker realizing he could write his essay about his BB gun. “Oh yeah, it’s pajama day.”
We often walk to school, it’s just three blocks, up hill one way. However, we were running late, so we drove. As we did, I noticed a kid, slightly older than him, who wasn’t wearing pajamas. Uh oh.
The school’s security officer noticed him immediately when he got out of the car.
“Is it pajama day,” I asked.
Michael was blissfully unaware as he bounded up the stairs.
So I swung by the house and grabbed a pair of slacks and a button down shirt, turned around and returned to school just after the anthem stopped playing.
The officer smiled as he saw me carrying Mary and the clothes up the stairs. He told the office to call down for Michael.
A few minutes later, the boy turned the corner with a staff member holding his left hand. His eyes were puffy and red. His head hung low. His right hand gripped a handful of tissues.
We made our way over to the bathroom in the main office and switched Michael’s clothes.
He sobbed. “I was afraid they would make fun of me.”
Did they, I asked.
“No, I wouldn’t go in the classroom.”
I remembered that loneliness too well. In sixth grade, we had a dress up day. I thought it was a dress down day and proudly wore an Eagles sweatsuit. I was oblivious to sartorial missteps, so it wasn’t until some girls commented that I realized what I’d done. A few years later, having still not learned much about clothing, a kid mocked my entire outfit on photo day right before I was going to ask a girl I liked to the dance.
Remembering these feelings, I hugged the boy and told him how proud of him I am. I missed his forehead. When we left the bathroom, he hugged me and kissed his sister. A teacher in the office noticed the pajamas in my hands and smiled knowingly.
Then something happened I didn’t expect.
Michael skipped away down the hall.