Sunday, January 04, 2009


The door opens with its familiar “click” and I strain my ears to discern whose footfalls proceed out into the hallway. They are the muffled “fhwumph-fhwumph-fhwumph” steps of my son’s footie-pajamaed feet crossing the hardwood floor. My internal eyebrow raises, and I turn from my glowing screen to greet him with a questioning gaze.

“Momma?” he begins, rubbing his eyes, his face turned downward. “I can’t sleep. I’m saaaaad.”

I cock my head to one side, knowing full well he’s only been in bed for, oh, about three minutes. And he was as cheery as a bird when I left. This sounds like a stall to me. “Hmmm…Why are you sad, Buddy?”

“I don’t know. I just feel sad.” He is trying his best to look sad. It is not working.

“Okay, Buddy—here’s what I want you to do. Get back in bed, and I want you to think about all the things that make you happy. Playing with Finn, playing with Sam, going to kindergarten…” I’m getting no response. “…playing at COSI, going to fishing camp…” His face finally lights up. “There you go! Hop in bed and I want you to think about fishing camp until you fall asleep, okay?”

He agrees and we exchange our fourth round of good night kisses as he fhwumph-fhwumph-fhwumphs back off to bed.

I breathe a small sigh of relief and return to the never-ending tasks at hand. Flying along more quickly than I expected, I eagerly anticipate having a few moments later in the evening to read, or, dare I hope?, to write. I point and click away, and then I hear it.

Click. Fhwumph-fhwumph-fhwumph. “Momma?”

I turn to face my son, reminding myself to smile and be patient. Smile and be patient. Smile and be patient. “What’s up, Buddy?”

Sniffle. Sniffle. Turn down cheeks, cue the tears… “I’m still sad, Momma. I tried to think of stuff, but it didn’t work. I’m still really saaaaaaad.” His voice catches. My heart softens. He is sincere.

“Come here, Bud.” I pull him up on my lap. “There’s nothing to be sad about, Buddy. We’ve had a great weekend. I want you to think about everything we did this weekend, and about all the things you want to do in Florida. Got it?”

“Okay, Momma,” he sniffs, wiping his nose on his sleeve for the umpteenth time. I silently hand him a tissue, and he half-heartedly blows his nose as he fhwumph-fhwumph-fhwumphs back to his room. Again.

I get back to work. Again. Time is passing, but writing may not be entirely out of the question. I continue to cruise through my various to-dos and delete each item off my list with glee. Finish item, delete item. Finish item, delete item. Finish item,


I sigh very not-patiently. He fhwumphs in a third time, and I turn around to find tears. “Momma, could you come open my window-things a little bit?” I question what he wants and why, not fully understanding what’s on his little mind. “I need you to open those things on my windows because I’m still sad (crying begins in earnest) and looking out the window (sob) helps me (sob) not be so sad.” Ah, now I understand. I understand all too well.

I walk my tender little boy back to bed, rubbing his warm, fleecy back. I am remembering my own melancholy five-year-old self, sitting at my own window, watching fireflies or snowflakes, counting semis on the distant turnpike, trying not to feel my own sad. I am remembering my thirty-eight-year-old self not wanting to be up late alone, making my husband fall asleep to the glow of my bedside light while I read or do Sudoku cozied up next to him in bed, still for the very same reasons. Indeed, I understand this sad all too well.

We take care of the blinds, lifting the bottom up high enough to allow him a slice of our street still aglow with Christmas lights. I tuck him in, kissing his curly, golden head, and, almost as an afterthought, do what I should have done in the first place. Kissing my writing time goodbye, I climb up into the top bunk with him, pulling his tiny body into the curve of my own. We pray, and we ask God to come and take away all that sad, and I hold him tight until his breathing becomes heavier and his heart becomes lighter, reminding him, as I so often need reminded, that he is not alone in the big, dark, lonely nighttime world. I leave after five minutes, exchanging kisses for the seventh time, and his door does not open again.

Sometimes, there is no reason to be sad. Sad just is. And whether we’re five or fifty-five, sad should never have to be faced alone. Tonight, my Buddy and I pushed back his sad together, if only for a moment. In an hour or two, I may still have my own to face, but I will not be alone, either.

Together, we will push back the sad. Together.

1 comment:

Julie Morrison said...

I think all of us are wishing we had mothers like you.