Tonight around 10:30, I made my way to Sean’s room to turn off his lamp and to remove the dealership of matchbox cars from his bed as I do every night.
I looked down into his crib to see him sprawled out in his usual dramatic pose – his forearm draped over his forehead in the manner of Scarlett O’Hara, the other hand across his heart, pledging allegiance, legs bent and poised as though sprinting toward the river of crystal light. Just as I leaned over to cover him up, he opened his eyes and sighed in a low voice, “Hellwoe Mommy.”
“Sean! Why are you still awake? It’s late.” I whisper.
“I just can’t sweep,” he moans, exasperated. “My eyes just won’t stay shut.”
“Oh. Well, what if you and I sit in the rocker for a few minutes? Do you think that would help your eyes shut?” I ask him.
“Oh, yes!” he agrees. He bounds to his feet in one move and stands with his arms stretched out for me to lift him out of his crib. He’s too big to still be in a crib. I know that. But I don’t really care. He is my baby. My only baby. I’m in no hurry to rush him out of his babyhood. I am in no hurry to rush me out of his babyhood.
We stand there for a moment with the crib rails between us. I reach in and cup his face in my hands. I can’t resist rubbing my nose across his. I flash upon the memory of my own mother giving me an Eskimo kiss. He reciprocates leaving a trail of snot behind to tease me. “Yucky!” I say with mock disgust as I wipe my face on his pajama sleeve. He thinks this is funny. He throws his head back and laughs. I notice how his eyes make the shape of a rainbow and squint shut when he laughs. His whole face smiles when he is happy. Like an old fool, it makes my heart sing to think that I have amused him.
I lift him from his bed. He wraps his long legs tightly around my waist and nuzzles my neck and begins to play with my stubby graying ponytail. He smells of baby shampoo and lavender soap.
We sit in the rocker and slowly move forward and back to Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. I think of my wedding day and how in the amber glow of candlelight I floated down the aisle to this song. I think of the look on Antique Daddy’s face, the tears in his eyes, as he reached out for my hand. I had been moving towards that moment and then this one all of my life.
We continue to rock, his heart pressed against mine, his raspy little boy breath circling in my ear. He snuggles deeper into the soft nook under my ear and continues to flip and twirl my ponytail.
“Will you wear a pony tail tomorrow?” he asks sleepily.
“Okay. Sure. I’ll wear a pony tail tomorrow.”
“I want you to wear one every day,” he slurs. “I think you wook so boo-ooh-ti-fwuu-uhl in it,” he yawns.
“Okay then, a ponytail it is. Forever.”
He stroked and smoothed my ponytail until his busy little fingers slowed and then. Stopped. His hand went limp and fell to rest on my back with a gentle thump. Sleep had finally won. I don’t know how long I sat and rocked him, listening to him breathe, the essence of life flowing in and out of his lungs. Finally, I stood and lifted him back into his bed. He shifted until one arm draped across his forehead and the other across his chest.
As I reached for the lamp, I turned and took one last look at my baby. He really is getting too big for that crib. And then I turned out the lights on one more precious day of his babyhood.
Tomorrow I will wear a ponytail.