I have a distinct memory of me and my mom when I was about 10 years old. She was exhausted one Saturday afternoon and announced she was going upstairs for a nap. Wanting to be with her, I asked if I could nap too. She looked at me through narrow eyes and said “will you actually sleep?” I nodded innocently. We went upstairs and got on the bed and laid down. She closed her eyes and I laid on the pillow and stared at her. My mind was humming about the day and about life…I tried to be sleepy but really I just wanted to be around her. I sighed loudly. I rolled side to side. I hummed a little. I thought I was being gentle and quiet…but… at 10 years old it was basically impossible. I started to play absentmindedly with her necklace. Twisting the pearls back and forth…when all of the sudden her eyes flew open and she snapped at me…”Katie, if you can’t be still… you can’t take a nap with me!”
My mom would jump over buildings to take a nap with me now. I swear. Two Christmases ago- when I told her that Howie and I could only visit for 4 days instead of 6. She cried. “You don’t understand because you don’t have children,” she said. I rolled my eyes…we had places to be.
Eliza is not a quiet snuggler either. She does not like to fall asleep gently on my chest. She doesn’t even like to nurse for comfort. She just bolts her food, throws me a tip, and leaves the restaurant. She dines and dashes. When I try to hug her…she kicks and pushes. She has places to be, jumpers to jump in, carpets to drool on, and couches to lean on. On one hand, I’m very happy that she’s independent and able to self soothe. On the other hand, I’m a little sad I missed my perfect Anne Geddes moment…the one where Eliza would lie still on my chest and mew like a kitten while I pet her.
It’s funny to realize that I have needs too. The need to squeeze her tush while she’s still small enough not to care. The need to get right in there under her neck to kiss the soft part. The need to hold her close while she’s pushing me away. And I have insecurities too. About whether Eliza will ever love me. And if she’ll ever really understand how much I love her.
I have a friend Hannah whose mother told us the following story. It was 1980 and Mt. St. Helen had just erupted near her home in Portland. Hannah was 9 months old. Hannah’s mom was walking through the neighborhood in the grey fog of the eruption. Ash had fallen everywhere- on trees, on houses, on cars. The smoke in the distance and the heaviness in the air gave her a deep sense of melancholy. She took her new baby inside and they laid down with her on the bed. Hannah’s mom laid still feeling sad and maybe a little empty. When all of the sudden a little arm reached out and cradled her around her neck. Hannah’s mom totally cried when she told this story. And Hannah, she rolled her eyes and said “She ALWAYS tells that story.”