"Mommy! Mommy! Mommmmmy!"
"OK, fine, you can come in here for a little bit. Five minutes and then it's bed time okay?"
I listened to his approaching footsteps, his blanket dragging along, and I KNEW he'd have Panda lovingly head-locked in his arms. Jack curled up between us in the ditch we make from different sleeping patterns—the so-called Equator of Restlessness—as he made it his own. For whatever reason, he laid down by our legs, head hitting my hip, unlike the usual curly hairs tickling my nose, seizing its territory across my pillow.
I stared out the window, watching car lights hit the panes and travel across the walls. We all laid still, silent, calm. As I closed my eyes, a tiny hand reached up and tucked itself in my palm.
Never has this happened before. Jack is very catlike, doling out affection where he sees fit, pushing it away when it comes on too strong. Usually, I wait, watching for holes in his armor, sneaking kisses and cuddles through those holes when I can.
An even deeper silence fell over the room. There, our hands held each other for a mere minute, and then...
"I'm going to go to bed now."
"OK buddy, goodnight."
I watched Jack’s head disappear into his room and released the grip that held my chest together, exhaling the fumes of reality through my nose.
My baby is gone.
My baby is now but a mere memory, stored away as jpegs on my hard drive and old clothing folded in the back of the closet.
In less than a week Jack will be three, though I haven't fully accepted this fact. How could I? It seems like only yesterday that I locked him into his car seat for the first time, laying my head against his tiny armrest, gazing at him the entire way home. Both our eyes wet, adjusting to a new world, trying to see things in focus. I cried when a certain song came on. It was too much.
"This is too much. This is so big."
Last night, as his hand left mine, a tiny death occurred inside me. One neither of mourning nor regret, though I knew that moment would be one of the last of its kind. A young child looking for reassurance from his mother, reaching up to make sure she's still there. Reaching up...
He's chasing the world down, ready for more. My place has been reduced from motherly hovercraft and guardian angel to sideline sitter; now merely watching, pushing him on. He won’t need me to hold his hand much longer.
But I'll keep it within reach.