The world is still and the only movement in our house lit by the glow of nightlights is the soft crunch of a fresh diaper shifting between chubby, bare legs. I lift a sleepy eye then lift my sleepless daughter and carry her to the nursery where we collapse together into the overstuffed rocker. She nuzzles her messy, cropped hair (self-cut) under my chin and we are pressed chest to tummy, all snuggles and sleepy sighs.
“Do you know,” I murmur into her hair, “My mommy used to rock me to sleep too?”
I can’t tell if she is still awake, but her silence prompts my speech, “And did you know my mommy is actually your Mimi? I have a mommy too...a good mommy. A really nice one.”
Her calm breathing steadies my own heart and I match the rhythm of her sleepy descent into slumber with my own journey into the past.
“Mimi was a good mommy to me, Sugar. She was kind and good. Oh, and patient. Really patient...in fact, she's everything I hope to be.” My eyes fill and the old, gnarled oak tree outside the nursery window crystallized with snow mellows into a white blur against the black sky. Was that really so long ago that I snuggled into my own mother, listening to her lovely voice reading my favorite story for the fifth time in a row? Has it really been years since I leaned against that scratched up counter top, watching her slice apples for my snack while we chatted? My mom could have been anything. She is beautiful and bright, sweet and strong. But she chose to spend her days with us. She choose Berenstain Bear books and ants-on-a-log snacks instead of something a little more...exciting.
I pull my girl close, holding her tight as I feel the minutes turn into years and fall from my grasp. I step out of my journey into the past and attempt to peer into the future at my daughter.
She’s 2 and wearing diapers and chocolate milk-mustaches.
Then she’s 5 wearing a new backpack, smiling big and cheesy for a picture.
Then 8 wearing only one front tooth, waving the last piece of childhood in her hand.
Then 14 wearing a dress nearly as beautiful as her, looping her arm through her prom date’s for a picture.
Then 16 wearing total pride, holding up a driver’s license for her parents and the world to see.
Then 18 wearing school colors, giving me that mischievous grin under a swaying tassel.
Then 20 and wearing radiant white, gliding down an aisle.
Then 30 and wearing a comfy robe, rocking her own two-year-old to sleep.
And what then?
What will SHE say to her two-year-old as she rocks her under a starry window in a sleeping world? Will she say I was patient and kind, sweet and strong? Will she remember the favorites: the books, the snacks, the memories that filled her growing mind, little tummy and precious heart?
And I know as I remember my past; the good mom, the hard lessons and the God journey that led me to here; to this moment, this rocker...holding this baby close, I know nothing else is more important to me than to be the mom I was created to be. So maybe one day this child-turning-adult-in-a-blink-of-the-eye will remember that she mattered. Maybe she'll remember that she was loved, held, read to, tickled, and rocked.
My wrinkled To Do List on the kitchen table that I had recently added #32 and #33 of “important things to get done today” suddenly seemed silly. Tonight, after tucking this sleepy girl in bed, I am snuggling into my own bed to sleep (at last!) but tomorrow, my To Do list is getting edited. Top of the list: reading all the favorites to little people and making memories that outlive the minutes slipping quickly away. Something else is getting added to the List too. Not at the bottom by #34 but closer to #1: Tell my mom she was a good mom.
Have I told her that lately? Does she know that I think I’m very blessed that she helps with (our) laundry even though she long-since graduated from BIG Laundry Loads Days (with top honors!)? Does she know I am blown away she still changes (the kids’) blow-outs even though her she long ago retired from Diaper Duty? And does she know I have fond memories of books, snacks, chatting and laughing from years ago...because of her? If you’re reading this, Mom, do you know that? I hope you do now. And I hope my own children will one day say I’m half the mom you were to us (heck, I’ll even take HALF the amount of patience you had!).
I move from our rocker and follow a silent path lit only by the amber glow of nightlights holding a tiny treasure. As I tuck this little gift into her bed, I know I only can carry her in my arms for a few more years. I can only hold her full attention until phones and friends interrupt our talks. And I can only share the same last name until the right man gives her a brand new one. But I will always be her mom and I can try be a good one. I can choose to spend time with her even as time quickly falls through my grasp.
Because nothing else is more important to me than to be the mom I was created to be so one day this child-turning-adult-in-a-blink-of-the-eye will hopefully remember that she mattered. She’ll remember she was loved, held, read to, tickled, and, of course...rocked.