He lies beside me, his mittened feet flopped over my thighs. He lies with his head facing the ceiling, this thumb tucked between his luscious little set of lips. He wiggles and turns, whispering my name, asking for a story, then a song, then another story. “Let’s tell a story about a skunk.” he says.
“OK, go ahead.” I say
“You tell it.” He says, and pats my belly with his little wet thumb.
We’ve read three books. Listened to a full CD of music. Made up stories about a one toothed beaver and an old brown cow and a little furry skunk with a wet black nose and four legs and a tail that floats behind him when he walks. It's midnight.
Tomorrow morning my boy boards an airplane with his baby sister and his mama and his new books and the PEZ freight truck with the yellow fire on the side that he gets to open on the plane. Tonight he cannot sleep.
“Calvin,” Mamma says, “You HAVE to go to sleep. “
He plunks his thumb in his mouth. Then pulls it out with a little suction sound, followed by a slow rising pitch of a moan, bursting eventually into a full blown cry.
“Cal, what is wrong? “
He cannot catch his breath for a minute.
“ I think I’m going to just miss everybody for a little while.” He exhales a mournful cry.
What two year old carries this grown up burden, the realization that parting hurts? The anticipation of pain? He breaks my heart and seals it at the same time.
We decide my lying with him is not helping at this point. I tiptoe out of the room and leave him with his mother.
Typing at my desk, Annie comes into the study and asks if I will go lie with him a while longer. He promises he will be quiet, and if he’s not you will leave, she says.
I climb the stairs, my tummy tight with love overflowing. I curl my body around his. His hand strokes my hand. His breathing becomes steady and slow, his thumb click, click, clicking in his mouth. He sweetly sleeps. Finally.
I rise from the bed and stand beside him, memorizing his profile, inhaling the melody of his breathing. I bend over, prayerlike, and press my lips into his soft cheek. Over and over I kiss him, bidding his energy to stay here, in this place, in this aging woman he calls Gummy. I command my mind to turn to his mother, my youngest child,… to rejoice in her profound love for him, to find comfort in her divine gift of communication with him, to celebrate the forthcoming reunion with his best bud, his Daddy, from whom he has been separated for nearly a month now. I am truly happy for him, this child of my heart, who takes a piece of that heart to Spokane tomorrow morning. Truly, I am happy for him.
The sad? That’s for me.