Bedtime

I’ve been filling the role of ‘honorary auntie’ for my best friend’s children since before they were born. I remember when her oldest was younger, every time I babysat and put him to bed, I would burst into tears. When you love someone that much, I guess it has to go somewhere.

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RemembeRED

This week we would like you to write about how the show of affection has played a part in your memory.
Choose a time when either the abundance or lack of affection (either by you or someone else) stands out, and show us.  Bring us to that time.  Help us feel what you felt.

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Bedtime

Tonight, I gave him a hug before he ran up the stairs for his bath with daddy.

“Night, Monkey,” I said, and kissed his forehead. “I love you,” I whispered, burying my nose in the sweet spot between his shoulder and his neck.

 Then he was gone — a superhero, an astronaut, a boy whose imagination astounds me. A boy who is outgrowing my lap quicker than my mind or heart can comprehend.

This is bedtime now. It’s different, full of bittersweet memories.

I’m sure that, just yesterday, we read Goodnight Moon on the couch downstairs. I knew it by heart, because he demanded it at least six times a day.

“Where’s the moon?” I asked, and he pointed with a chubby, drool-covered finger.

In the bath, the purple octopus and the squid chased each other around the tub. Giggles filled the room as I sculpted his hair into a soapy mohawk and tickled his belly button, and when the last of the water circled the drain, leaving only a few tiny bubbles behind, I gathered him up in a towel. We played peekaboo with his pajamas.

Just yesterday, I wrapped him in my arms and carried him to his bedroom — the damp weight of him warm against me, his legs dangling and his wet hair leaving a spot on my shirt where his head rested on my shoulder. He yawned.

“Such a sleepy boy,” I said. “What a big yawn.”

In his room there was only darkness and the smell of baby shampoo. We curled together on the chair beside his bed. My chin rested on his head as I inhaled him, and we rocked. I closed my eyes and sang soft hymns that took me back to my own childhood, listening to my parents practice for church after I had gone to bed.

“I will always love you,” I whispered. “I will always be here. I will keep you safe. I promise.”

I sang and rocked, not sure which of us clung more tightly to the other and it wasn’t long before my tears came, running down my face and dripping onto his head.

I cried because I loved him. Because already, he grew heavier in my arms each day. Because soon, I knew that snuggles before bedtime and singing hymns would just be a memory.

I cried because he was my best friend’s child, and my only claim to him was that I loved him more than I ever knew was possible. Because no matter how many times I read Goodnight Moon, he would not be mine.

Just yesterday, I laid him in his bed and placed a stuffed penguin in his arms, kissing him and letting my hand linger for just a moment longer on his cheek. I turned on his music and snuck out the door, wiping my cheeks and hurrying downstairs to plug in the baby monitor — part of my promise.

If he woke, I would be there to chase away the monsters.

Tonight, when he went to bed, I didn’t cry. After books and hugs and kisses, I smiled and watched him go. He is mine. My Monkey. My superhero. Not because he has to be, but because he chooses to be. Tonight, when I whispered, “I love you”, he whispered, “I love you” back.

I tell him every time I see him, so he doesn’t forget. And I take in every hug, every smile, and every giggle — sure that just tomorrow he’ll be a man, the scent of baby shampoo long faded away.

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Monkey and Me Circa 2008

2010

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Thanks for reading! Concrit welcome and appreciated!

*Bobs