Sunday, October 29, 2006
Bedtime, a Sunday Scribble
It’s one of those weeks where Laini and Meg’s prompts seem to have some special telescope into my life. So, without further ado, Bedtime.
Once upon a Thursday in a room just up the stairs lived a little boy who wasn’t much for maternal expressions of affection. His idea of showing her his love was a high five, or maybe a roundhouse kick to the rear end. Curling up next to her as his sister and brother did … well that was for girls and kindergarteners.
When he was six months old he developed an arching in his back that he used to tell his mother to put him down. He used it often. By 18 months he had a little show he’d put on … plucking the kiss off his hair with a tiny fist and saying “Bam it to the wall!” as he made a throwing motion. By the time he was 5 his mother had started getting the message. He would permit a hug and a kiss before leaving for school or at bedtime, but not much more … unless he was sick or had had a bad dream.
But even then he wasn’t like his siblings. This independent creature would sleep on the floor next to his mother’s bed, never crawling into her arms in the middle of the night. And so his mother learned and the boy grew, all the while guarding his protective bubble.
It’s a safe zone, a place of delicate construction reinforced with strong will. His arms and legs swing freely inside his bubble, set to full strength, ready to punch, pivot and hook kick should anyone make it through. All this, his mother finally determined, is an unconscious but well orchestrated effort to defend the gold inside his chest. After years of worrying he didn’t know just how much she loved him, he grew old enough to send her signs.
More than once he would push her sleeve up when she tucked him in at night, rubbing his favorite blanket on the pulse point she marked with perfume each day. The scent would move to the blanket, which he tucked under his head with a purr.
Sometimes during a favorite after-dinner TV show he would sidle in next to her on the sofa, sometimes sharing that same blanket. As soon as she was aware of his closeness she had to fight the urge to pull him closer still and kiss his hair.
At 7 he was showing tiny signs of manhood. His shoulders were broader than she ever remembered and months of concentrated karate had cultured new strength in his compact form. He had his own opinions and his own ways of doing things and finally, finally, they had negotiated the terms under which she might show him her affection.
But yesterday was something else. A cold, rainy fall afternoon found him on her lap, worming his way into the denim button-down she often uses as a cardigan this time of year. She’d been pulling it over her turtleneck all day … and a few times the day before that. Angling off to see her eyes he smiled and said, “You smell good.” Then, to her surprise, he shoved his arms inside her sleeves and rested his head on her shoulder. “Can I wear your shirt?” he asked.
“Well, I’m kind of wearing it now,” his mother said and they laughed. “But you can use it for an extra blanket at bedtime.”
This made him happy and so they moved through the rhythm of the rest of the day. And when at bedtime she leaned in for her negotiated kiss he said, “You forgot to give me your shirt,” she laid it over that favorite blanket and turned off the lights.
When he came down for breakfast today he was wrapped in that denim shirt, hanging down past his knees. And he didn’t take it off until he dressed for school.
“I got to snuggle him all night,” his mother thought, sipping coffee and watching him butter a bagel. “And he wasn’t even sick.”
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