Last night the evening air hung cold and damp. The kids and I co-existed in our warm, kitchen cocoon. Heavenly scents hung heavy in our space. I made lemon chicken, and it sizzled in the big stainless pan. I got to the part where I juice the lemons and Abby yelled,
“Mommy, can I help you squeeze the lemons?!?!”
Henry excitedly said, “Mommy, can I pwease have a wemon I can cut?”
“Sure, H, sure. Go wash your hands.”
So, Abby squeezed lemons and Henry cut his lemon half in preparation for eating. He used a table knife. Suddenly he yelled, “I cut mysewlf!” Boy howdy did he. With a table knife, he sliced right into his sweet, plump finger. Blood drip, drip, dripping. Henry is fairly stoic, but this cut freaked him out. So I mothered, cleaned, washed, bandaged, wiped tears. Rebandaged.
Then we ate. Abby frantically shoveled in her favorite meal before leaving for a school event. Henry, wearing his favorite silly monster pajamas (which are beginning to seem ill-fated), wasn’t hungry. His finger huwrt. He retired to the couch and covered up in the family-favorite fleece sherpa blanket. I finished furiously cleaning the kitchen and Abby left. The house fell silent.
No answer. I found him on the couch, half-way to sleep under the heavy blanket. His blond hair was already bed-heady and his cheeks were flushed with sleep. It was only 6:30 pm. He wakened slightly, enough to ask me if I remembered the time we had caterpillars that turned into butterflies, which we released into the skwy. Then he mused that the butterflies were probably dead now.
As I perched on the side of couch, I rubbed his head in that way that a devotee rubs a worn talisman or good luck charm. I hoped by physically handling the brief moment that I could indelibly brand it to memory before the inexorable sweep of the second hand took it away. I offered Henry a cozy bed and an endless basket of bedtime books. He raised his arms, silently asking for a ride upstairs. I abliged.
The house sat silently, the padding of my wool clogs the only exception. Henry’s raspy voice broke the quiet as he chattered about his fingwer and how well the advil was wuhking. He held the offending finger high, like a beacon to the sky. I carried all 42 pounds of him up the stairs.
We entered the dark bathroom and stopped. His fuzzy monster jammies, which have glow-in-the-dark stars, faintly lit our space with their luminescent glow. We stood in the dark, heads together, gazing at our private garden of stars. The combined concoction of warmth, peace and Henry’s intoxicating scent kept me still. I stood, with Henry in my arms. We rested forehead to forehead and soul to soul.
We finally climbed under flannel sheets and I read. Henry nestled tightly next to me and our breaths existed as one. I made it halfway through the Velveteen Rabbit and stopped. Henry slept. The night light, like an evening sentry, cast its own soft, watchful halo across Henry’s cheeks. Oh those cheeks. And those lashes, resting just above. I stared. I stayed.
As I padded back out of his room, the coldness of the house slowly enveloped me. I turned back, took one last look and finally closed the door. I know that these fleeting moments…flee. Being able to fully experience them sits intrinsically in knowing I’ll never be able to replicate them again. It kills me that I can’t anticipate when an everyday occurrence will suddenly become a last.
The last incorrectly spoken word.
The last time I can easily carry his solid body up the stairs.
The last time he thinks I hung the moon in the sky, just for him.
The last time we star gaze together.
Today, I indelibly imprinted the following: the scent of lemons, a throbbing fingwer, glowy stars and a sleepy body, close to mine, not knowing when they will slip away into the past. My anticipation of the lasts may indeed crack my heart open, exposing a vast plane of apprehension and appreciation. Perhaps it is this inky awareness that provides the very canvas by which I can distill these moments into my soul. A dark canvas which beautifully exhibits the tenuous relationship between remembering and being. Between darks and lights.
A repost from almost exactly one year ago.