>> Monday, November 9, 2009
I climb down from the top bunk, placing my foot on each rung, stealing away from the quiet whispers, secrets from the day tucked under hand-me-down quilts and buried under pillows.
He shares his snapshots in these stolen moments. After the Goodnights, the Go to sleeps; before lids fall heavy. After X marks the spot (with a dot, dot, dot) and before the chest rises and falls to the steady rhythm of dreams.
He tells me his stories. What he pulls from his day, the truth that he gleans is only a shadow and it’s all I have. How would it measure against the color image? Would I recognize the day from his telling? The unfolding appears differently than it would to my eye. I wonder which silhouettes the other children take home, projecting them against quiet walls in dark bedrooms, lit dimly by the glow cast through a door ajar?
I’m grateful for these whispers, the songs sung in hushed tones, the inaudible prayers uttered from barely moving lips, heard only by the ears to which they were intended.
The nights are work. I bend over water, washing them clean; over naked skin, diapering, dressing them fresh and swaddling secure. We dim lights, sing lullabies, and pace with cradled arms. They call out – with thirst, for warmth, a craving for affection; the prolonged delay of my coming lost on them as I shift the baby to my hip, offering a cup, a hand, a touch. I’m coming. Another minute, and I’m coming.
I bend again, deeper, and the baby finally rests, slumbering safely in his crib; and I straighten and turn, finally returning as promised. One breathes the telltale rhythm, burrowed into pillows and under blankets, having lost the battle in wait, in vain. I straighten and tuck and kiss before climbing the rungs to the restless one tossing in the top bunk.
He rolls the day like a stone, turning it over, finding the treasures and the bugs; making sense from the chaotic order of his day. We lay in the quiet, and I inhale his scent, wrapping my arms around his slender frame, marveling at his metamorphosis. He turns, gazing up at the stars dangling above his pillow. I can make out his profile in the dark, and I listen intently to his stories; straining, sharpening my focus – his words are all I have to piece together his time away, his separate sphere where he clearly thrives and grows, where he creates a world all his own, to share or not.
At the most subtle of invitations, I enter; and I’m grateful for the telling. Grateful that the way he makes sense of the world is through stories, through words. It is a process I understand.
I could listen for hours, bits and pieces settling out from the reaches of his mind, pictures bubbling to the surface when he stills himself. But it’s time for sleep.
And it’s time for me to uncurl myself, to straighten from the bending, to ground my feet and stretch my arms skyward, to still myself and let my stories surface.
Because it is in the telling that I find it, projected on the wall where I can step back or look closely, examining the details and the whole.