He’ll be glad to see the end of the pandemic but not the time it’s given him with his sons

Eavesdropping on his eldest son’s online classes, getting advice about how to make his novel better are among the joys of working from home during the pandemic, Stefano Esposito writes.

SHARE He’ll be glad to see the end of the pandemic but not the time it’s given him with his sons
The writer’s sons, Lucca, left, and Matteo, play together with blocks at home.

The writer’s sons, Lucca, left, and Matteo, play together with blocks at home.

Stefano Esposito/Sun-Times

Perhaps as soon as this summer — is that being absurdly optimistic? — I will fold up my laptop, put the borrowed kitchen table chair back where it belongs and say goodbye to the poky room I’ve called an office for the past nine months or so.

I will miss this. Not the pandemic, nor the pea soup green walls I haven’t yet gotten around to painting and certainly not the odor that lingers from the connecting bathroom. I’ll miss the window it offers each day into my children’s lives.

Just this morning, Matteo, my 3-year-old, prodded a little plastic plate with a plastic pizza slice under the French doors.

“I slid it under the door, Daddy, because I didn’t want to disturb you,” he said.

I’ve come to love our unhurried mornings together at home. I rise at 4:30 a.m. to work on a novel I’ve almost finished, treading lightly and avoiding the creakiest stairs. About once a week, Matteo is awake anyway and I hear a little voice in the darkness call out: “Daddy, can you open my gate?” By which he means the safety device we installed to stop him from tumbling down the stairs in the middle of the night.

I think of the pages that won’t get written that morning, but then I remind myself that a time will come soon when Matteo won’t need his daddy the way he does now.

“Just a minute, sweetheart,” I say.

Sometimes, it’s my oldest, Lucca, who awakens early. He’ll shuffle into the office with hair we haven’t had cut since March and in underpants we’ve told him that he absolutely may not wear one more day. He’ll settle into the sofa, sometimes with a book and sometimes, if I’m lucky, curious to hear what I’ve written.

“That’s good, Daddy, but I think it would be better if …,” he’ll say. Or, with breathless excitement: “I just got a great idea! You should have a giant scorpion pit — no, a mutant scorpion! Half scorpion and half spider, and very hairy. Or giant flesh-easting flies! Isn’t that cool?”

“It’s wonderful,” I say, and I mean it. Part of me hopes that his crackling imagination will one day lead him to write his own novel [perhaps with his own child sitting nearby].

Someday soon, Lucca’s online classes will end. They didn’t start well. The temptation to click away from multiplication tables and spelling lists to a screen ablaze with fire-breathing dragons pursued by armies of goblins proved too great.

Daddy marching out to the car with a cardboard box full of confiscated toys didn’t work. We moved Lucca’s desk from his bedroom to just outside my office.

I’d hear Lucca’s third-grade teacher call my son’s name and my fingers, poised above the keyboard, would freeze.

“Lucca? … Lucca, are you reading along with us?”

A note from the teacher about his colorful browsing history would follow.

Perhaps Lucca finally got fed up with all the nagging and the threats because he’s doing a lot better now. Of course, he’s not the only kid whose attention wanders. And, thankfully, the teacher hasn’t had to tell my kid: “Please get a tissue. We can all see your business.”

The sound of the school bell clanging in empty hallways, the Pledge of Allegiance and the morning announcements have become part of my morning soundtrack, like the whistle of the tea kettle. When the teacher asks Lucca a question, I tilt my head toward the open door and stop typing.

“Lucca, what are you are excited about for this weekend?” she asked the other day.

Please don’t say playing video games for 48 hours straight, I thought.

“This weekend, I’m excited because I think I know what one of my birthday presents is, and I’m going to find out what the other ones are,” he said.

Just last week, his class held its annual talent show. I suggested he might want to play his violin. Nope. He said he was doing a magic trick instead.

When it was his turn, Lucca plopped a toy magician’s hat in front of the computer camera and, taking advantage of his audience’s limited perspective, pulled his violin, an encyclopedia and Dad’s favorite antique clock out of the hat.

After the applause, one of his classmates asked how long it had taken Lucca to learn the magic trick.

“I just made it up two seconds ago,” he said.

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