I heard her footsteps and with my eyes still shut, still drooping heavily with fatigue, I smiled.
She peered over the side of the bed, the top of the mattress reaching her nose, and she grabbed hold of the sheet, shifted her weight forward and grunted as she heaved herself up. I slid my head over as far as I could to the edge of my pillow, making room for her own head to settle on the pillow case covered with flowers. She plopped her head down and handed me her favorite blankie, the thin one covered with purple monkeys. “Cover me up, Mama”, she said. I wordlessly acquiesced, and then leaned over, kissed her forehead and snuggled in as close to her as I dared. I leaned my chest into her back and pushed my nose into her hair. She pulled the edge of her blanket up and pressed it to her mouth, as she does to self-sooth. I put my arm around her waist.
She picked up my hand and moved it.
I respected her wishes. I respected her body. I was reminded that even though every cell in my body screams She is MINE! and her limbs feel like appendages of my own, truly a part of me, she is not mine. Her body is not mine, she is her own self. It is a humbling, scary, sad, happy, invigorating, motivating, every-emotionful-mushy-feeling feeling every time I remember or recognize that she is her own self. It is amazing to witness, her becoming a person. Her modeling a large chunk of who she wants to be based on my behavior, is what makes me be the best self I can be. She makes me so much better than I would ever be without her. She gives me more than she takes, even though she requires a lot. There is no such thing as energy wasted, no such things as ridiculous demands, because everything she requires, no matter how big or how small, forces me to improve in some way.
I can not afford to not be a better person.
It took a bit of will power, but I kept my arm at my side and focused on the warmth on my chest. I soaked her heat in. I willed my pores to open up wider.
Before she came into the room, I was drowning, fatigued, holding my breath underwater, not sure if I was going to make it, the pre-coffee, oh-my-god-it’s-too-early, my-head-is-pounding, a gasping-for-breath kind of morning despair. But her presence buoyed me up and her nearness was like air at the surface. Her scent was luscious banana-scented-Minion-bubble-bath air. Intoxicating-gulp-it-down-drink-it-up air. Her touch was life-sustaining-inhale-exhale air. Fueling-fill-me-up, wholly satisfying air. I greedily gulped it down as fast as I could, while staying stock still. I did not want to risk losing my life-saver any earlier than I had to.
We have this summer routine, where each morning she crawls in my bed and we lay, sometimes looking into each other’s eyes, sometimes laying next to one another with eyes half-shut, sometimes singing, sometimes my hand turning into a puppet, she and Mr. Hand chatting. Today we sat in silence together. Beautiful, warm, cozy, silence.
Every once in a while she’d reach her arm and place it on my hand, moving it slowly up my wrist, my forearm, back down again. I’d delight in it. I’d hold my breath and feel her fingers tracing. A bonus touch. Enjoying it while it lasted, before she’d tuck it back under her own chest, gripping her beloved blankie once again. How many more of these moments do I have left? No matter the number, not nearly enough. Soak it up, I thought to myself. Become infused with her touch, her love. Soak her up, convert her energy to gratitude, let it permeate your cells, mutate your DNA, making a more superior you. Soak. It. Up.
I knew I could have been more firm when I asked her if she needed to use the toilet. I knew I was pushing my luck. I knew that every moment we cuddled was one moment closer to when she couldn’t hold it anymore and peed in her diaper, even though she was working on not. But I didn’t push it. I waited for her to ask to get up for some breakfast. To tell me, “Wake up, Mama”. The toilet just didn’t seem all that important, right then. It was like her diaper was telling me, Don’t worry. I can soak it up too.
Her touch. That innocent, pure, calming, healing touch. That was more important than anything in the world.
I am pretty sure it always will be.