“Mom? Connor Is a cool dude. He’s really smart. He knows the capitols. And about wars. And Vitamin C. No wait. What is it? Calcium.” That’s great, kiddo. I like that you noticed that. I like when you’re a good friend. Let’s be quiet now, okay? Time to sleep.
She rests her head on my arm and tugs the other arm over her belly. Wiggles a little closer, so that with every inhale my ribcage presses into her still-tiny back. “I like to be close to you, Mommy. I wish I could get closer, like when I used to be in your belly.” I know, snuggling is nice, isn’t it. Let’s try to be quiet now.
She talks some more, wiggles some more. Jabs my chin hard with her elbow, a daily occurrence that still takes me by surprise. Oh come ON! “I’m sorry, Mommy. I love you so much.” I wonder how her hair turns the smell of grilled cheese and my own cheap coconut shampoo into something to move toward and grasp so tightly. I force myself to remember that holding tight is only half the goal, and nowhere near half the effort. Granting freedom bit by bit, day by day is so much harder. Letting go.
Her muscles start to relax. Her breathing slows and deepens. Good night, my sweet girl. Sleep so, so well. See you in the morning.
Downstairs, sleep isn’t even on the agenda yet. There’s still so much to do. Rehashing basketball practice with Dad. Basketball practice that happens in sneakers only half a size smaller than mine and doesn’t end until nine o’clock at night. Second dinner and a bowl of frozen peaches. Basketball is a lot of work for someone who’s already growing four inches a year — who suddenly looks like an almost-teenager from the back, all gazelle legs in sporty shorts. You don’t know it, but we smile at the back of your head all the time, hunched over your totally legit homework. Shake our heads slowly together in awe at what you’re becoming. We’re watching. So how — when! — did you get so big without our knowing?
And you’re funny, and so astute. I got all nostalgic the other day about how your time living with us is more than half over now. You answered, “Who says? There’s no way I’m gonna be able to afford my own place after I graduate from college. I’m totally moving back in with you.” I mean, what newspapers are you reading to study macroeconomic trends while I sleep? At least we’ll be in capable hands if you’re taking care of us one day. Which, if the past ten years are any indication, will feel like approximately three weeks from now.
In the meantime, we’ll be sitting over here on the couch in our jeans and cozy socks, sipping our responsibly stiff drinks. You might not understand the expressions we’re wearing, because between the two of you, you still don’t know what 18 years look like. But I think you’re big enough now, so I’ll tell you.
This is the look of two people delighted but still a little confused by how all of this — absolutely everything — started half our lives ago with a single sidelong glance.
The Sidelong Glance
A light, herbal apéritif to kick off your evening.
- 3 ounces gin
- 2 ounces dry vermouth
- 8 ounces freshly squeezed grapefruit juice (from 1 to 2 grapefruits)
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