It is 10:15 on a Sunday night and this is not where I ought to be, burrowed deep in this blog with words scattered in every direction. I only sat down to print a handful of homeschool papers, but that son of mine, that oldest one, had been pressed tightly to my body moments before, and I can’t shake the feeling of his hair. His hair.
In May, he’d wrapped his arms around me in the kitchen, and I’d been startled to find his head nestled right above my chest. He was so tall! When had he come by this height? With just the slightest bit of warm bending, my chin rested in his hair. The curve of his head had cupped into my throat, and I knew it, the way a mama does: I knew this all was fleeting. “Please hug me like this every day,” I said, to his giggles.
Everyday for awhile there, he came, always as I made a meal, always as I was standing. I would pull him to me, and he’d ask, mouth muffled into my skin, “why do you want to hug me like this?” “Because you’ll never be this height again,” I told him. “You’ll never fit right here, I’ll never feel exactly this again for the rest of my life.” His arms would squeeze tighter.
In July, I didn’t have to lower my head. His hair curved perfectly under my chin, and I would rest there in those kitchen moments, his burgeoning body odors, the lone pimple on his nose, his strong hands: all details to be memorized, the way I’d memorized dimpled fingers, lobes of ears, and every sleeping noise of his babyhood. But now he measured his stature against mine, and crowed.
Then today, I shouted at him. He had done something thoughtless that had proven more dangerous than he’d anticipated, and the action had wounded the feelings of his brother. In the heat of the moment, it appeared he would accidentally hurt more than his brother’s feelings, and I’d shouted for him to stop what he was doing, and then continued to shout my explanation. Hearing my voice, I did apologize in the moment, but as I dressed later for bed, the scene came back to mind. Though we’d said goodnight hours after the incident, and I’d kissed him before sleep, something nagged in my heart. It was a scene to be relived, that shouting scene, and I imagined he’d be reliving it in bed.
“Peter?” He peered at me through the bars of the top bunk. “Can you come down? Do you mind if I give you a hug?” Grinning, he pulled off his covers, pulled on a shirt, and hopped the ladder in a bound. He buried his head into me, murmuring, “why?”
“Because. Because I shouted at you and I didn’t want us to go to bed without a much better interaction. I’m sorry, Bub.”
And then I gasped. How long had it been since we’d stood to embrace? What had I been giving him, hand clasps through bunk bed bars? Sideways hugs during read-alouds? For here we stood, he slouched ever so slightly, and I, I with my chin to the air! His hair, sharp and poking, was pressing off my ability to swallow. When had it happened? When had it passed? “Oh my!”
Laughing, he erected himself a fraction taller. “Guess pretty soon I won’t fit there at all!” jested he, his eyes brimming with pride.
“My nose is pointing straight to the sky!” I exclaimed to his satisfaction. “Before we know it, we’ll be eye to eye!” Aye, and before we know it, his height will far exceed mine.
Someday he may be a man who plants kisses tenderly on his mama’s graying, aging crown. I hope, at least. But tonight the privilege was still my own. I grabbed his head as he wriggled and jerked, and kissed that pokey mass of ten year old hair, one more time.