My back is turned to him, but I hear his steps as he approaches.
Without turning to look at him, he says, "Mom, can you tie this?".
I’m in the middle of a cleaning frenzy–company’s coming tomorrow, friends we haven’t seen in years, and I want them to sense how welcome they are by everything being ready for their arrival.
Irritated and not turning to face him, I begin a practiced Mother response when clearly what I’m doing is much more important than his need.
With voice unnecessarily raised I begin "You KNOW how to tie things–do you really think I need to stop what I’m doing to–" as I turn around to face him with a scowl on my face.
He’s standing there with an over-inflated pink balloon, disappointment creeping into his eyes, because if he COULD tie it, he would have. I begin, "Can’t your sister…" as he completes my thought for me–"…I asked her but she’s cleaning her room."
In that moment, the more important of the two tasks crystallized, taking form and settling in my heart. I realized this is my youngest; hardly a baby to the casual onlooker, but forever my baby. This is the 11-year-old who gently reminded me the tooth fairy needed to come last night because she "forgot" the night before (I knew he "knew" and had no idea he was hopeful, expectant, wishful thinking).
And then I went back to mopping.