“Would you like a song tonight?”
I wonder if he heard the catch in my breath as I asked. I did.
Each night, I wonder if it will be the last time. I’ve sung “Baby Mine” about 2,700 times. That’s not an exaggeration. For years, he hasn’t been able to settle into slumber without it. Although in the past year, there have been breaks in the streak.
“Mom, I’m getting a little old for a song.”
“Ok, buddy, no problem.”
Or, “Can you just rub my back tonight?”
All signs pointing toward the beginning of the end. My responses may have been calm but I heard a small crack form inside.
My daughter’s song was “Edelweiss” but we had a much shorter run. When my son was born, we split night-time duties. My husband took over stories and “Bunkysuits” with my almost two-year old while I nursed and rocked, all hours of the night.
It continued in that pattern, long after the rocking chair was sold and my body was once again my own. Stories, snuggles, prayer, song. I’d hear them singing together, her voice octaves above.
“Lay down, my dear brother. Lay down and take your rest. I want to lay your head down upon your savior’s breast…”*
It looks much different now. There is no bedtime story, no sneaking out. Instead, there are longer conversations. The stressors, the questions come out as they exhale their day. But each night still ends with a song.
I told my mother the other day that, while it is indeed going too fast, I love every stage for different reasons. Each unfolding comes with new discoveries and new challenges. And yet, with each milestone, each step away from childhood, that crack widens.
It is rare that my daughter asks for a song from me now. It is a bond she shares more with her father. It naturally happened that way and it is beautiful. She still wants me to pray with her and shares her fears and wonders in whispers as I rub her head. I still do the same with my mother. I don’t fear the loss of time with her in the same way.
There will be a time when he won’t hold my hand. A time when he won’t wink at me from home plate. A time when he won’t run over for a sweaty kiss between buckets. He won’t ask for a nighttime snuggie. Or a song.
Through the years, he’s asked about the meaning behind the lyrics.
“Why are they scolding him?”
I changed the words from “you’re not much” to “you’re so much” because I knew he would be sensitive to that.
When I’d sing,”Rest your head, close to my heart, never apart,” he would do just that.
Last night, he decided he did, indeed, want a song. That catch in my breath became audible as I sang. The crack in my heart became a crack in my voice. I’m sure that is how it will be now. Every break in the streak, another little break in my heart, wondering if it will be the last time. Because, no matter how old he is, he is indeed “so precious to me” and will always be my baby.
*Lyrics by Aaron Neville, sung in the style of The Grateful Dead