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>Red Writing Hood: Five Minutes

February 15, 2011


This week, we want you to imagine that after you have died and your son will be given the gift of seeing a single five-minute period of your life through your eyes, feeling and experiencing those moments as you did when they occurred.

Five minutes.

It’s all I have to give you. 300 seconds out of thousands of days, dozens of years, decades of memories – good ones and bad ones and plain old everyday ones.

Would I give you your birth? The moments when I gasped as they pulled you from my belly and first heard your lusty yell?

Or the day you learned to ride your bike – tall and proud and overjoyed at your new-found freedom and speed?

Or your wedding day – tall and proud and overjoyed as she walked down the aisle to meet you, and we watched as your eyes shone and dreams came true.

There are others – so many others – significant and immortal days. But we have pictures to tell you those stories. Photo albums and videos captured those moments forever.

I choose instead to give you this – one day in a thousand that was nothing special, nothing important. Nothing significant except that it was ours. Our family. One night.

Your hair is still damp from the bathtub. You hate the shower and begged for the tub, despite your long-legged gangly body not fitting in quite like it used to. I step carefully over LEGOs and forgotten origami, a sneaker and a few grubby socks. The jumble on the floor, what was once neatly arranged on shelves. You’re a pile person, that much is already clear.

“I’m too hot for a shirt,” you tell me, but I know: it’s Yellow Blankie you really want wrapped around those sharp shoulders, like a faded, fuzzy cocoon. You curl your big feet under legs and fold into a ball, on your side, in the bed.

Eyelids droop. The smell of dinner still hangs in the air as I finish the last few pages of our book together. Done for the night, I mark the spot and close the book.

The light from the hallway falls across the edge of the quilt. Down the hall, your brother is still talking to himself, or to his toys. I’m not sure which. He’s not yet tired, but you are.

“Two songs?” It is our ritual. Two books, two songs, one prayer. You read yours first – something of Egypt or aphids or dinosaurs. And then I read mine – Peter and the Starcatchers, or Harry Potter, or Ivanhoe. Knights errant, soldiers valiant, cabbages and kings…it doesn’t matter.

We lay for a moment side by side, heads on pillow, gazing out the window at the Japanese maple tree that stands outside. Since you moved to that big-boy room and that big-boy bed, I’ve told you her leaves are little hands, waving at you. At Christmas, white fairy lights hang from the eaves and cast a glow into your room. In the winter, stars shine through the leafless branches.

You ask if that is Ursa Major. I don’t know, so I say “maybe.”

I tuck the curtain back against the wall. Your brother starts to faintly sing “Twinkle twinkle little star” off key, to his teddy bear.

You are now in your nest, yellow blankie is with blue and red, and you surround yourself with them, their softness is your solace.

The rite ends with our secret farewell. A kiss on both cheeks. Double noggin. And two snaps.
Your arms hold tight around my neck for a moment longer than necessary. It hurts my back, but I don’t complain.

“Goodnight, lovey.”

“Goodnight, mom. I love you.”

You roll to your side, facing the wall, and within seconds you’ll be gone. I’m tired and I look forward to the peace that waits in the other room. Grown-up TV, a glass of wine. I’m weary, but I try not to hurry. I know these moments are few, and precious.

I linger a moment and lean down to kiss you, breathing in for just a moment, satisfying some deep and perhaps primal urge to daily memorize of your scent. Shampoo and soap and 8 year old boy.

This is our moment – a night like so many other nights. It is not unique. It is not momentous. It is simply ours.

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