Head rolling side to side, she begins to whimper. I hear her and wait, trying to pick the perfect time to go to her. Too early and she’ll still be asleep; she’ll moan and shriek. Too late and she’ll be frustrated and angry. If I hit my mark, she’ll wake up happy and cheerful.
I hear someone else call my name and by the time I’ve gotten back, I’ve missed my window. She’s terribly cranky. Arms stretching out, I pick her up. Appeased for a moment, she nestles into her favorite spot but my necklace scratches her face and she throws back her head nearly toppling both of us over. I put her down, but that’s wrong, too. She wants milk! No…juice! No…milk! Really she wants nothing at all. At least nothing from me. I discard the still-empty cup and hold her in my arms, her weight a reminder that she’s not a baby anymore.
Knowing this may take a while, I flop down on the floor. It doesn’t even matter that we’re in the kitchen. Her cries ebb and flow because even she isn’t sure how she feels. (I’m the same way when I wake).
She snuggles in and catches a few soft snores. “Just one more minute, Mom,” I imagine her teenage self mumbling from beneath a pile of blankets. The girl does love a good blanket. (I do, too).
I rub my fingers gently across her back and she bucks if I stop. She periodically rubs my arm in rhythm with my strokes back and forth on her back and legs.
There’s so much I should be doing. There are so many other things that need to be done. Dishes. Laundry. Dinner. And yet I sit on the kitchen floor with a baby-no-more, tears in my eyes and hers.
Babies don’t keep, I think. Babies don’t keep.
The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.
~Ruth Hulburt Hamilton
I don’t always get it right, but this time I’m pretty sure I did.