There is no clock in my room at the summer house, not even an electrical outlet. It’s one of those undetermined witching hours between midnight and dawn. I am drowsy but not asleep, struggling with the wicked combination of jet lag and a brain that has the propensity to buzz at the most inconvenient times. Finally, after hours of tossing and turning, I’ve reached that hazy sweet spot where rest is inevitable.
The cry comes then.
And I am awake, in the immediate way of all mothers roused by a piercing cry from one of their babies. I hear pain in her voice, or maybe fear. I stumble in the dark. She is just next door but there is a hallway to navigate and toys strewn across the bedroom floor.
I reach the ancient single cot she sleeps on and see immediately that she is crying and writhing and trembling a bit, but not truly awake.
I slide between her sheets and mold my body around hers. The tremors stop. A few more whimpers escape and then those too are settled. Her breath returns to normal. I am left wondering, as my heart flows out of me to surround her, how much longer will I be the magic balm that soothes all?
Motherhood bequeaths countless superpowers. I can vanquish demons and chase away boogiemen and mend wounds and settle feuds and soothe fears and calm nightmares. Just a touch or a hug or a whispered “hush wee girlie, mama’s here” in the middle of the night and equilibrium is restored. It’s a magic bit of sorcery, born of the alchemy between parent and child.
But we are approaching tenuous years, she and I. Just months away from ten, she rides these liminal spaces between childhood and adolescence, innocent of what is to come. She is still far more little girl than the enigmatic teenager she will be in just a few short years. But already, lying here curled around her, my head is only slightly above hers and my feet reach only slightly below. I was taller than my mother by twelve. Will she be the same?
In the pale glow of the moon hanging low outside the bedroom window I can just make out the light dusting of freckles that covers her nose. She squirms a bit and settles in against me. Her thumb makes its way to her mouth; a residual baby habit she just can’t shake at bedtime.
She smells like childhood country summers; salt water, sweat, fresh air, fertile earth, cut grass. The scent arouses a cellular memory of my own summers here by the shore and I breathe it in, knowing that this time is finite and infinitely precious.
How many more summers will I be her magic balm? How much longer will my touch or voice or kiss be all that she needs to settle her heart or her fears or her body? How soon until her troubles get bigger and deeper than can be healed by climbing in her bed late at night and offering simple comfort?
My girlie and I have had a connection from the beginning. A way of seeing each other that defies explanation. Our hearts never fully disconnected from our time in shared space. Even in my deepest anger or most fiery irritation I feel her with a depth unparalleled, and she feels me as well. It is our biggest challenge and our most profound gift. Will it be enough to help us navigate the years to come?
I pull her closer to me, and lean in to kiss her temple, breathing her deep into my soul.
All I can do is hope.