“Mom.” Hot breath on my cheek stirs me from the deepest of sleep. “I have a stomach ache. Can I sleep with you?”
I mumble something incoherent that he and I both interpret as a yes and he burrows under the covers. His hair smells clean, freshly washed just before bed. I’m poised to drift back to dreamland, but for a conscious moment, I relish him close.
He sucks in a deep breath. It’s sharp. Pain.
“Are you okay?” I ask, more awake now. He clutches his side and pants. It’s probably an air bubble, but in my sleepy haze I immediately assume appendicitis and I push on the lower right side of his abdomen. “Does that hurt?”
“Ow! Yes, that hurts!”
In the next moment, he is wrapped around me. Knees and elbows swathed in a narrow frame. His nose is in my neck, his arm flung across my waist. He’s hot and I’m immediately uncomfortable. I’m so tired and my first thought is to push him off on his father who is snoring on the other side of the bed.
But then I stop. His breathing slows and falls into a quiet rhythm. In, out. In, out.
It’s just as it was back when he used to fit a little more snuggly in my arms. Back when I couldn’t wear his flip flops and his hands weren’t nearly as big as mine. Back when his hair was a white blonde fuzz on top of his round head. And instead of pushing him away, my arms engulf him and squeeze tight.
Because I miss back then. I miss it.
But for a few short hours, I got to relive those moments. I didn’t sleep much…or at all. Somehow, though, sleep didn’t matter, just as it didn’t matter back then. Because the moments fade so fast. When morning light pierced through the darkness, he finally stirred and unwound his spindly body. He looked up at me, all blue eyes and freckles. And eight years passed me by in an instant.
“Hey Mom,” he said with a sleepy grin. “Can I have some Nutella for my birthday breakfast?” And as he dashed off to conquer the day, I remained behind. Tired and teary. Grateful for a night of little sleep and thankful for those brief, still moments when he snuggled close and held tight. Those moments will soon be no more.
Happy Birthday, Sloan.