You fill the hollow of my arm, child, bundled snug against the drafty night. Fingers no longer tiny, but still small, quiver delicately at your cheek. Your little hands are always the last part of you to feel the weight of sleep.
And just who are you, Samuel?
Son of mine with serious eyes, yet so often taken with inexplicable delight, what kind of man will you become? Tall–this much is certain–and observant, I suspect. Perhaps you’ll have a thoughtful face, the sort that surprises with a ready smile.
Small hands startle at the thunder, and eyebrows lift but cannot raise the lids of your sleepy baby eyes: rain has been falling all day, and the chill of autumn seeps into this old house. Your first winter is coming, Sam, and what are we going to do if you won’t keep your socks on?
Tonight I can pretend you are mine, cuddled close and warm. But in truth, you are you own self, and have been from the start. To think I was so eager for your birth, for you to be out in the world so I could meet you, see you. And then to realize that once outside of me, you must continue to remove until we are separate. Is this, then, the curse of Eve?
These are the days of holding on, of a blessed but too-short dependency. You feel no discomfort that I cannot soothe, my darling child. When you wake at night, afraid or lonely, you know I will attend to your cry. As relieved as I am to put you to bed at the end of a busy day, I miss you while you’re sleeping.
Women write of letting go. To me, the phrase has always evoked the image of a grasping clutch relaxed, a controlling vise released: a grudging, reluctant bestowal of freedom. Now I know that we grip our children close not to persist in an illusion of ownership, but because the heart breaks to send them from the security of our arms to face danger and pain unprotected. Because, Samuel, no matter how strong and tall you become, I know it is this image of you sleeping, peaceful, fragile, that will hover in my mind when you set out to conquer the world.