Anyway, last night the evening air hung cold and damp. The kids and I co-existed in this warm, kitchen cocoon. Heavenly scents hung heavy in our space. I made lemon chicken, and it sizzled in the big stainless pan. I got to the part where I juice the lemons (the kids adore this part) and Abby yelled,
"Mommy, can I help you squeeze the lemons?!?!"
"Mommy, can I pwease have a wemon I can cut?"
"Sure, H, sure. Go wash your hands."
So, Abby squeezed lemons and Henry cut his lemon half in preparation for eating. He used a table knife. Suddenly he yelled,
"I cut mysewlf!"
Boy howdy did he. With a table knife, he sliced right into his sweet, plump finger. Blood drip, drip, dripping. Henry is fairly stoic, but this cut freaked him out. So I mothered, cleaned, washed, bandaged, wiped tears. Rebandaged.
Then we ate, the kids and I. Abby frantically shoveled in her favorite meal before leaving for a school event. Henry, wearing his favorite silly monster pajamas (which are beginning to seem ill-fated), wasn't hungry. His finger "huwrt". He retired to the couch and covered up in the family-favorite fleece sherpa blanket. I finished furiously cleaning the kitchen and Abby left.
The house was silent.
I found Henry, half-way to sleep under the sherpa blanket, already drooling. His blond hair already bed-heady, his cheeks flush with pending, interrupted sleep. It was only 6:30 pm. He wakened slightly, enough to ask me if I remembered the time we had caterpillars that turned into butterflies, which we released into nature. Then he mused that the butterflies were probably dead now. (As I've mentioned before, he is the King of the Non-Sequitur.)
As I perched on the side of couch, I watched him. I rubbed his head in that way that a devotee rubs a worn talisman or good luck charm. I hoped by physically handling the brief moment that I could indelibly brand it to memory. Before the inexorable sweep of the second hand took it away.
I offered Henry a cozy bed and an endless basket of bedtime books. He raised his arms, intonnating that he'd like a ride upstairs. I abliged. The house sat silently, the padding of my wool clogs the only exception. Henry then sleepily chattered about his "fingwer" and how well the advil was "wuhking". He held the offending finger high, like a beacon to the sky.
I carried all 42 pounds of him up the stairs. We entered the dark bathroom and stopped. His fuzzy monster jammies, which have glow-in-the-dark stars, faintly lit our space with their luminescent glow. We stood, heads together, in the dark, gazing at our private garden of stars. The combined concoction of warmth, peace and Henry's intoxicating scent kept me still. With Henry, in my arms. Forehead to forehead, soul to soul.
We climbed under flannel sheets and I began to read. Henry nestled so tightly next to me, our breaths existing in unison. I made it halfway through the Velveteen Rabbit and stopped. Henry slept. The night light, like an evening sentry, cast its own soft, watchful halo across Henry's cheeks. Oh those cheeks. And those lashes, resting just above. I stared. I stayed. I soaked him up.
As I padded back out of his room, the coldness of the house slowly enveloped me. I turned back, once more, took one last look and finally, closed the door.
I know that these fleeting moments...flee. Being able to fully experience them sits intrinsically in knowing I'll never be able to replicate them again. I just don't know when an everyday occurrence, which I might not appreciate, will suddenly become the last. The last incorrectly spoken word. The last time I can easily carry his solid body up the stairs. The last time he thinks I hung the moon in the sky, just for him. The last time we star gaze together. Lasts. My anticipation of the lasts may indeed crack my heart open, exposing a vast plane of apprehension. A mixture of subtle grief surrounding the recognition of time's passage.
Perhaps it is this inky awareness that provides the very canvas by which I can distill these moments into my soul. A dark canvas which beautifully exhibits the tenuous relationship between remembering and being. Between darks and lights. And I offer this platitude: I must have the darkness of lasts to appreciate the light. The light of the forward movement of time. Of firsts.
Today, I've indelibly imprinted the following: the scent of lemons, glowy stars and a sleepy body, close to mine. All while precariously straddling the tightrope between lasts and firsts.