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

Tears of a Grounded Bird

I can still smell that classroom…

RemembeRED

For this week’s RemembeRED prompt, we’re asking you to remember kindergarten. If, after thinking about it for a while, you can’t recall anything, move on to first grade.

Mine your memories and write about the earliest grade you can recall. What was special? What was ordinary? What did you feel? Hear? See? Smell?

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Tears of a Grounded Bird

I was weightless.

The wind blew hair into my face as the plastic swing cradled me – precarious and safe all at once, it was the vehicle that could take me into the sky. Maybe even to the sun. I was sure if I let go, I’d fly away, soaring over the curly, yellow playground slide, over the cinderblock building, over the trees tall as giants.

The other children ran around me, but they were little more than background noise. I wasn’t like them – boring people. I didn’t belong on the ground. I was a bird.

And like a bird, I sang as I flew, with all the enthusiasm of a five-year-old who hadn’t yet let learned about inhibition or shame. At the top of my lungs, I sang out lyrics that told stories too old for my little lips.

They will bury me where you have wandered
Near the hills where the daffodils grow
When you’re gone from the Red River Valley
For I can’t live without you I know

In childhood’s happy ignorance, I sang only because I could. Because when I soared on my swing, I was free.

Until that day.

The teachers sat in a line on the wooden bench in front of the swings. There was the sweet first grade teacher, who rescued me from naptime each day, when I would leave my kindergarten class in the mildew-scented basement room to take advanced reading and math. Beside her, the assistants, and beside them… that’s where she sat.

My teacher, with her blonde hair pulled into a severe ponytail, had none of the sunshine that a kindergarten teacher should. She wielded her power with a little too much joy, denying unscheduled visits to the bathroom and making Tristan cry when she wouldn’t let him bring his stuffed dog outside. Because big boys don’t need stuffed animals, she told him.

I didn’t like her. Not since she told me I’d painted my leaves wrong in art. Of course they were all clumped together at the bottom of the page. They were in piles. Didn’t she know that’s what happened to leaves in the fall, after granddaddy raked them up? Didn’t somebody put the leaves into piles at her house? I knew I hadn’t painted them wrong.

No, I didn’t like her. Not one little bit. But at recess, I knew she wasn’t there for me. She and the other teachers were there for the bad kids. For the ones who tackled each other and got into fights. For scraped knees and bruises and that time that Jessica threw up. When I was swinging, she couldn’t touch me.

“Katie!”

Her voice, calling my name, stopped me mid-song. My name? I hadn’t done anything. I dragged my feet on the ground, kicking up a cloud of white-brown swingset sand, my untied shoes drawing lines in the dirt.

I looked at her, defiant and wary.

“Yes ma’am?” I asked, because daddy told me I always had to say yes ma’am to my teacher.

“Could you give it a rest?” She said.

I didn’t understand. A rest?

“What?”

“Could you stop singing?”

“Oh.” I looked down, hot tears already filling my eyes. “Yes ma’am.”

I left my swing there – my magical vehicle to the sky still swaying back and forth – and became one of the ground people. Running as hard as I could, I dove into the shaded gravel under the curvy yellow slide, where I could cry the tears of a grounded bird until the playground whistle blew.

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Circa 1995

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Thanks for reading! Concrit welcome and appreciated!

*Bobs (Formerly known as Katie. Before she got old enough to start using her first name.)