A little love story for your Valentine’s Day…
N was quarantined in the spare bedroom, sick with a virus that I desperately hoped not to catch.
I thanked the good Lord as I heated up leftovers. The thought of cooking a dinner from scratch for just the three of us sounded so unappealing and would have stolen my time to read books with Bea; which I find myself doing more routinely now that she can sit still for long periods of time.
We blessed our dinner and MG made sure to add in a special prayer for Daddy while I covered behind her with silent pleading and house scrubbing. The girls liked my leftovers tonight so that accounted for one less battle I had to fight and left room for leftover Super Bowl treats from our party the night before.
MG was on a high. She’d come home from school, dance, and piano lessons, to a new bath toy which she had earned from a motivational chart. She wasn’t allowed to open it yet, just look at it though the plastic. While I emptied the dishwasher, I answered 1,000 questions about it. After the questions started to repeat themselves in a cyclical whir of a 5-year old brain, I had to remind her that I didn’t have any more answers about it than she did.
We cleaned up the kitchen and then played in and cleaned up their kitchen. I was then treated to a ballet and at the end, instructed to throw roses at pink leather shod feet.
I gathered the girls upstairs and started a bath. Capitalizing on the excitement of the new toy and that Bea had taken a 3+ hour nap that day in the name of “the time has come to gather all Sweet Mama Makes’s paperwork for our tax guy”, I let the bath time run long, hoping it would tire them out to my level of tired and create fewer bedtime battles I’d have to navigate singlehandedly.
The water eventually ran cold and we warmed it up. But when lips turned blue and skin turned pruney, it was finally time to exit. The lotion, ‘jamas, hairbrush, toothbrush routine was mercifully expedited because we had to be quiet “because daddy was sleeping.”, and the girls will do anything attentively so long as there is a ring of newness to it.
We stole away to the sister room and finally laid heads on pillows. The girls each picked out a book, Frog and Toad for the eldest, lift-the-flap for the youngest (poor second child, most of the flaps had been torn off three years prior) I picked up the Bible reading next, which is something Daddy normally covers, but felt confusion, not knowing where he’d last left off. MG said, “let’s just read my favorite story” and pointed to Goliath. This has been her favorite story since…never.
I was kind of shocked at how graphic this retelling was. I was apprehensive it would give her, the most sensitive of imaginations, nightmares. At the end she said, “in the other Bible we read, David takes a sword and chops off his head at the end. I guess that would make blood go everywhere.” Fears put to rest.
I kissed them both and inhaled their freshly bathed scent, the perfume that launched a 1,000 mothers. I said goodnight even though I knew Bea would reappear in my peripheral in about 6 minutes, give or take.
I went downstairs to tidy up and finish up a project and counted 10, 9, 8,7….
I watched on the monitor as MG rolled over and tucked herself in. I panned the room searching for Bea. I finally spotted a little, wet, top knot sticking up from the stairs outside their room. Upon further inspection, she was reading a book by the light of the hallway lamp. I suppose I couldn’t be mad about that.
But a predictable ten minutes later I heard the attempted, yet failed, silence of tip toes coming down the first, and then second flight of stairs.
I looked up serendipitously as she poked her head around the corner.
She knows she’s not supposed to be downstairs. She knows she is learning to stay in her big girl bed. She knows this means she will have to sleep in her crib instead. But she just can’t help herself. As I carry her back up, I feel for her, somewhat. Her self-control is just underdeveloped. And being in a dark room next to a snoring sister is just so….boring. Her big girl bed is my “last chapter and then I’m done”.
It was a late night for me as I worked out a few frustrations on my project before willingly setting it down. It’s hard to walk away on a negative note and not have it chase you for another 24 hours until you can pick it up again.
As I made my final rounds, picking up fallen dollies from beds, clicking off flashlights, closing up books, I noticed that Bea was still awake. Lying down, but awake. I reached out my arms to her and she came willingly, pressing her weight against me like only a lover of physical touch can.
She is still doughy, like a baby. When I squeeze her, she is fleshy, not bony and muscular like her older sister. Sometimes I just can’t help myself and grab for her because her skin feels so good and her limbs are so healthy in a way that I am ever more aware I will never be again. All that good skin, wasted on the young.
She usually gets annoyed with my pinching and kissing, but at night she is warm and melty and will languish in my arms so long as it prolongs her banishment to bed.
I pressed my head into hers and she pressed back. I whispered, “i love you” and she whispered something non-sensical back. I laughed because it was more “hot breath” than words and it tickled my neck and ear. Then she laughed. And I thought “I’ve never felt more love than I feel in this very moment, on this very day.” And that thought occurs to me 1,000 times every single day.
So is a mother.
Not your typical love story, to be sure, but one any mom could write given an hour and a moment of reflection.