My palm settles on the knotty valley of his spine, perfectly centered between bony, flesh-covered peaks; I remember when my hand covered his back.
That was a "yesterday" over 12 years in the making.
Though past experience tells me he's going to say something that will sweetly sting my heart, I'm not quite prepared when he does. "I like it when you lay down with me, Mom…I fall asleep a lot faster!"
Like every mom, I hear my son's unspoken thought. It is the imagination of this boy (and countless others) that conjured the idea for Monsters, Inc., and he's much more likely to close tightly closet doors than to brush his teeth each night.
It is 11:09. After a Christmas break of late nights and sleeping til breakfast-for-lunch, this is my attempt two nights before school resumes to rediscover "bed time". I'm incredulous I couldn't do better. Eleven…early? The kid can sleep 10 hours straight–needs it–and I'm determined to shave off hours tomorrow.
I rest in the present.
Nested and spooned, I notice his feet stop just atop mine. He's grown. I want to slow time so my feet hitting the back of his ankles takes forever plus a day. It's a silly thought, I know, but I wish-think it anyway.
I'm annoyed with his older brother and sister; I rename them Mustang and Buffalo. He gallops down hardwood stairs at 11:17 on a mission; it probably involves raspberry tea and Cheetos. She clods down uncarpeted hall to the bathroom and I marvel how her hundred-pound frame carries itself like not one, but a herd of bison. It is 11:31, and with no interest in feigning my irritation, I hush them harshly with a dollop of shame.
I will never understand how they, despite my example, instruction, and most important, shared DNA, CANNOT duplicate the delicate sound of my own fairy steps. Or am I being unreasonable? Are "imperceptible footsteps" reserved only as a mother's super power?
I slip back under the covers and he snuggles to my side; my arm sashes his waist. Our bodies cast mountainous shadows on his wall and I smile while doubting he sees this. His eyes are likely closed. I absentmindedly count his breaths…and then reluctantly count the years before he leaves for college.
His fish tank babbles.
His body twitches.
He tagged the Sandman.
And I'm out.