I creep into your room after a long day
Trying in vain to silence the squeak of your un-oiled door
And the creak of the rogue floorboard beneath your soft pink carpet
I fix my gaze down at your bed
Trying to find you in the middle of the chaos
So unlike your sister, whose head never moves from her pillow
You perform complex acrobatics in your sleep
You are the leader of a nocturnal three-ring circus
A menagerie of animals peeks out from beneath your elbows, arms and hands; a tiger, a lion and a floppy blue dog lie squashed beneath your hips, knees and feet
I can’t imagine how you are comfortable, but you’d have it no other way
My eyes finally adjust to the darkness
And focus on your beautiful face, flush with sleep
I kiss your head and you roll toward me
Your slender arm wraps around my neck, securing me in a delicious headlock
I whisper to you in the darkness
I love you so much, baby girl
You murmur back – your little voice thick and drunk with sleep
I sink to my knees as if in prayer
How many nights before have I spent right here watching you, just like this?
Someday if you ask why I lingered at your bedside for so long
I will tell you
Just to be close to you, my sweet girl. To be in your world when all was quiet; when the storms had finally passed. When the sun had packed your worries away and taken them along on its journey to the other side of the world.
To find peace in knowing that the moon stood guard at your window, bathing you in its sweet, protective glow. Yes, just to be close before the sun returned.
Through the haze of memory, I hear your Papa’s ~ my Dad’s ~ booming tenor.
I see the moon and the moon sees me.
“HI, JESSIE,” he’d say in his strong, deep voice. He was every bit the moon.
I followed, playing the part of the wide-eyed little girl, believing that the moon could speak. And would. To me.
We play those roles now, don’t we, baby? You and me? Mama’s moon is an alto at best, but it’s the moon you know. The moon that speaks to you, follows you, watches you. The moon that keeps that damn sun at bay.
Will it one day be the moon that you’ll remember as you kneel by your daughter’s bedside? Dare I hope? Dare I believe it possible?
I try to shift my weight a little, but you make it clear that you aren’t going to let my neck go. I have no interest in freedom, so I rest my head on your unused pillow.
As I listen to you breathe, I think about the day. I think about how much angst swirled around your universe, how much effort went into trying to make your world OK.
The phone calls, the e-mails and the meetings. The discussions about flaring anxiety, the trouble at school. The concerns over piling up reports of ‘up and down’ days and ‘rough’ mornings. The conversations about the ‘I don’t want to go’s’ and the ‘I want to go home’s’, the abundant requests for breaks and the effects of constantly shuffled support staff. The checking in and the re-checking in and the wondering – good God, the wondering – the desperate, impotent, heartbreaking wondering – about what really happens all day long when YOU. CAN’T. TELL. ME. My wanting so badly to trust the people who do tell me, but worrying – desperately, impotently, heartbreakingly worrying – about the inherent flaw in a system that has a vested interest in making sure that I believe that all is well. The pit in my stomach when I asked you about your fourth grade buddy from school, after your aide that day had told me that you’d spent a class period getting to know each other but that you’d been having a ‘rough time.’ The pit getting bigger when you squeaked out another pained, ‘I don’t know’ and I finally had to acknowledge that you couldn’t tell me a solitary thing about your buddy. That you hadn’t even heard her name. The subsequent wondering what ‘rough time’ might really have meant. The frustration. The tears – yours, mine, ours.
You turn away without warning, freeing my neck from your grasp as you curl around your favorite doll. I don’t want our time to be over, but I take your lead. It’s time for me to go.
I nuzzle your back one last time and whisper into your warm neck, ‘Mama loves you, sweet girl.’
As I walk to the door, that darn floorboard gives me away. You open your eyes, but just as quickly surrender again to sleep. I close your door slowly. It’s time for Mama to sleep too. And I will – for a while at least.
Knowing that the moon is standing guard.