“Do you want me to read with you?” I ask my daughter, who is now eight, and sits cross-legged on her bed wearing a T-shirt and too-long flannel pajama bottoms.
My eyes rest a moment on the faded pink butterfly chair we picked up at a garage sale for moments like this – my reading alongside her bed – and for other moments, too, with friends in her bedroom, giggling, dressing up dolls and stuffed animals, arranging them in various scenes.
You know those cuddly, grey, big and little sheep Kohl’s sold seven years ago, the mom and baby with super soft curly fur? So many stuffed animals lay dormant in our basement bin these days but these sheep of hers migrate from room to room in aprons or tutus, huddled together in a tiny doll tent, perching precariously on a cat scratching post, or tucked kindly into the queen-sized bed in our guest room. Right now, they’re in a pink tent. Under a fancy cloth napkin.
But I digress.
“Of course, Mom. Why wouldn’t I?”
Because just after we paid for the chair, we found a small musical snow globe with a Christmas tree inside and when the lady who was selling it showed you how to switch on the carol it played, you looked from your globe to me in complete rapture and said, “Mom! Now you don’t need to tell me stories and chat with me at nighttime anymore. I can play music!”
“But I like chatting with you,” I replied lamely, although I knew I should have, instead, honored your independence.
But she gives me this reprieve tonight, and I am grateful. ‘Why wouldn’t I?’ she asks with a blend of love, generosity, and sheer attitude. I don’t know if she remembers last weekend’s snow globe epiphany, but she has placed it prominently on her dresser. Next to her name spelled in Guatemalan-crafted wooden block letters. Next to her Ikea nightlight. I have yet to pick it up in my own hands.
I move her new chair from the corner of her room to the side of her bed. I am not tentative. I am grateful to have what may be only a few more months with her like this – mom and daughter side by side, immersed in our own books – me with my arty reading glasses, their black, paint-splattered frames, her with her glasses for everyday, each of us sharing a laugh or a line of text, a random thought from the middle of our days apart, a question or an insight as we go along – cozy in her bedroom with the door closed to the rest of the world.
We will find new rituals as she grows out of this one. I know we will. We always do. But I do not want to let go of this – this cozy quiet we create at night in the minutes before she falls asleep.
“Just checking,” I tell her, settling myself now into the chair.
She meets my eyes, offers a small smile, a gentle nod.
I hear leaves fall from the tree outside her window, landing on the pavement, rustled by wind.
“Is it raining?” she asks. She hears it, too.
“No, it’s the leaves,” I say, “falling from the trees.”
She separates the blinds on her window and peeks out. “Oh, I see!” she says. She sees a lot.
We settle into reading our books again, each of us. After a few minutes, I stand, move the chair, turn off the light, and kiss my little girl on her head.
“I love you, too, Mami,” she says, so softly I can hardly hear.