He appeared on the edges of dawn, quiet and expectant. He is like the sunrise; he tips toward wakefulness until suddenly you realize he is awake and alive and thrumming, full bore like the morning sun, burning off the clouds of his sleep.
“Mama, can we snuggle?”
I moved over, making room and giving quiet assent. He slipped in and did the usual. We call him the heat-seeker. He loves to touch anyone near him with as much of him as possible. He throws legs over hips, arms over faces, until he’s touching both my husband and me. In any quiet moment, he moves hands towards his sisters of me. During reading time, in church. He’s a toucher.
When he climbs into our bed, of course I welcome him. Of course I want him to feel comfortable and secure. I also like my bed big and less occupied. I like to wake langorously like a cat and stretch. When he drapes over us, I begin to sweat and wriggle like perimenopause is my job.
In church, his sister leans toward me. She rests her head on my shoulder briefly before I make her sit up straight. She asks me to pinch her fingers. I hold her hand and squeeze from the base of the fingers to the base of the nail. It calms us all. She fidgets; she’s like that. She changes her mind a lot. I want to hold her hand. I want her to seek me. But when I hold her hand, or let her rest her head, I can’t take notes. I don’t feel totally engaged.
Those are the touches we give, and want to give, we mothers. It is part of the job description and we gladly assume the role.
We’ve had some ups and downs lately, and I’ve been a little ball in an emotional roulette wheel. The wheel spins ceaselessly, never settling but slamming over Anger, Depression, Anxiety, Joy, Hope, Enthusiasm, Lethargy, Contentedness, Calm. As soon as I identify why I’m feeling anxious, I skip to hope, but then, I’m tired, so tired, of this or that. And so it goes.
In church, I stood to sing, while these two, youngest and oldest, remained seated. It’s a deal we have. The heat-seeker made his move until he was seared up against her. I waited. I waited for the recalcitrant teenager to shove him away. Instead, she opened her arms and let him in. She played with his hair and stroked his arm.
I took the deepest breath I’ve had in weeks.
Later, I sat down near the eldest to clean up her fingernails. Her body language made it clear that my presence was barely tolerable as I shaped her nails. I finished and began to rise; I can take a hint. She said, Stay. Stay with me.
She propped her legs over me and talked to me. She laughed. She told me about her friends. She let me rest my hands on her legs. I gazed at her, trying to see this young woman for who she is, for who she will be. And she let me.
Here I thought caramel was my love language.
These are the touches for which I live. The ones they initiate, the ones that show me all the good things I want to see in them. The ones that let me settle just a little bit longer in Hope.