Ten o’clock and I’m sleepy-eyed, the kind of sleepiness that pulls you under while mid-sentence. When the boys were younger and demanding of stories while I lay beside them in the dark, I would begin one sentence and finish with another. J was always so in tune with my tales that he caught me right away, waking me, pointing out my out-of-sync words. A on the other hand never noticed. M doesn’t let me tell stories – we sort of tell them together, her little voice leading me along.
Me: Once upon a time there was a Princess—
M (in a scary, ghostly tone of voice): No, Mommy, there was a witch and she saw a dog named Sassy and she walked the dog in the woods.
Me: The witch—
M: (same scary, ghostly voice) Then Tinkerbell came and saved the dog from the witch.
Me: And they flew together—
M: (same scary voice) They walked to a castle with no locks or windows. Tinkerbell took the broomstick (pronounced “brum-stick”) from the witch and gave it to the dog.
Me: And they—
M: (excitedly) Theeee….end!
And so with M, I’m not given much opportunity to drift off into other-sentences.
Today, we celebrated J’s 12th birthday and I found myself desperately wishing for memories to flood me of when he was small and cuddled with me in my arms – how easy we forget those times even though while we were there, the hours, the days felt eternal, endless. How I wished for him to be just a little bit older, just a little more independent. How I wish now for him to be just a little less independent, how I wish he’d not shoo me away when I try to hug him.
Dinner was lively, at our local Chili’s. We opened gifts and had cake at home – J was thrilled to get all stuff for his drum set. A new crash cymbal, jazz drumsticks, a bag to carry his growing collection of drumsticks.
J’s feet are now bigger than mine.
I consoled myself by lying this night with M and hugging her close to me, memorizing the feel of her warmth and her easy acceptance of my cheek-kisses.
This morning though, J’s birthday seemed far away. I sat on the edge of my bed and watched HBO’s In Memoriam: New York City, 9-11-01. I found myself near-sobbing at the tragedy of it, at the limitless horror of the images. I felt almost as if I was seeing it for the first time because it’s been so long since I dared to watch anything on the event. In fact, when it happened, my mother was in a deep coma, one she would never wake from. I remember those 9-11 images on the television, I remember being shocked and saddened and afraid, but mostly I remember turning to my mother who lay silent on a hospital bed and weeping because I knew I’d never hear her stories again, I’d never lie with her again in her bed. I remember what felt like the most private, ignored grief as the country consoled the 9-11 victims.
Red-faced, swollen-eyed, I shook myself off when I shut off the television, burying the pain. I drifted into the kitchen were we put balloons and streamers up. I tidied the house, made the beds, kissed A on the top of his head as he played a video game. I watched him play – computerized cars zipping along a computerized track, speeding faster than any sort of reality.
“Look at the boost, Mom!”
“I see that…” Sassy whimpered at my feet, ready for a walk, ready for the day to get on. M cried for me to put her socks and shoes on, A ran from D, not wanting a much-needed bath.
I was glad to drop away from the scary tale to other-sentences, to today-ness, to a birthday.