I could hear the wind howling, howling so loudly I almost got up to see what the sound was. But I was warm and comfortable in my boy’s bed, the lights were low and I was watching his face as he read. I didn’t really want to go anywhere, not even the few feet across the room to look out the window.
I don’t remember when it was that I stopped reading to him. I remember when I started. It was before he was born. And then I resumed the first day we were let out of the hospital, when he was four days old. Other than the times he’s been punished, going to bed for a few days without a book, it has pretty much continued for the full 10 years and – what? eight months? As I said, I don’t know when it stopped. I guess it might have been somewhere around Christmas.
First we couldn’t decide on a book we both wanted to read. Then there were the few that I began and he took over on his own. Lately, he’s flown through four or five when I wasn’t looking. And that got him past needing someone to read to him. Or wanting it.
Now there’s a sort of emptiness. A space borne of the time not spent together, of night after night not cuddling up with books and blankets. I feel that emptiness as I make dinner, with him upstairs, me downstairs. I feel it when he leaves the kitchen after dinner and disappears back into his space.
Space is important, and I don’t begrudge him it, but I do feel the emptiness.
It’s not that he doesn’t want to do things together, just that he wants to do things I don’t want to (play soccer, play video games) or I want to do things he doesn’t (go for a run, look at pictures, read) or he wants to hang out when I’m making a meal, cleaning up, trying to get the things done that need doing. It’s an awkward dance – I’m ready when he’s not, he’s ready when I’m not.
Tonight though, after I had finished in the kitchen, I did play soccer with him for a bit in his room. And when it was time to lie down, to start to calm and unwind, he lay down with a book and I flopped down beside him to listen to the wind. We stayed like that for a while, him making the funny snuffling sounds he always makes when he reads, fidgeting endlessly, unable to lie still, me just watching him, ruminating, listening and watching and thinking.
When I got up to leave, he wound his arms around me and said, “I love you the most.”
My sweet boy.
Perhaps tomorrow I’ll bring my book down to his room. We can create a new tradition while we lie around and read.
Bridge the distance, fill the space.
Together but separate.