He clings to me, nuzzling his face into my hair. His freshly brushed teeth leave a minty heat on my neck. He whispers “I love you, Mommy. I love you so much. When I grow up, I’m still going to live with you because I love you so much”
Over and over.
I tell him the same.
Until he gets too tired for this embrace.
It’s me that doesn’t want to let go. Even though my hair and neck are getting wet from his exhales.
Which are deepening.
It’s time to let go.
I untangle his arms from me and lay him down next to me. Still in my bed.
I watch him as he falls asleep. His body jerks in response to the falling sensation then he begins to breathe evenly, deeply. Exhausted from a long, hard day at school, he crashes into dreamland quickly.
I look at him in amazement, I can’t believe how big he has gotten. His body, horizontal on my king size bed barely leaves any room for me, so I’m precariously balancing on the edge.
My baby. 1st grade.
He’s in a real school now. Not a sheltered, private school where he was protected, nurtured and adored.
Homework. Hard work. Playground bullies. New friends. Bus rides. Loose teeth. Matching socks. Cool clothes. Fitting in.
A baby no longer.
A new scary and fascinating world has opened up to him. A place where not all the kids are Jewish or white. Where teachers might actually yell and kids can be cruel. But also, more exciting, interesting and fun.
My last baby. My youngest.
His mouth moves in his sleep. He is sucking a pacifier long gone.
I reassure myself-see, he is still a baby. Because only babies suckle like that.
I want to pause this. Or play it in slow motion.
Because this fast forward is too hard to handle sometimes. I find that I am trying so hard to remember what happened yesterday that I miss some of today.
I don’t want to miss anything.
Because, before I know it, they will all be gone.
College and beyond.
Leaving the house full of echos and shadows.
I pick up his sleeping body and walk him to his room. His body dangles in my arms, his legs so long, they almost drag on the floor. I’m not tall, he is.
He mutters something unintelligible in his sleep. And he sighs.
He starts that sucking noise again as I put him in his bed. He turns onto his tummy with his tushie in the air.
I will remember this as I slowly, steadily loosen my grip on him.
As I begin to let go.
It’s almost time to let go.
One day, I will let go.
But for now, I’ll keep pressing the pause button as hard as I can.