peanut butter and tears

by bam

only 18 more pb & j’s to go. only 18 more mornings where i am called to the bed of mister sleepyhead, where i plant his face with kisses. and, slo-mo, we wind into the day.
on hip, or hand-in-hand we make it down the stairs, plunk waffle into toaster, make nest of blankets on the floor. spin the dial. decide just what the day will bring before the yellow school bus lurches to the curb, brings a close to the latest episode of me and little t, the p.m. kindergarten story.
just yesterday, he was one-eyed pirate, and i was hiding buried treasure. he was argh’ing all over the mighty tossing seas. i was swabbing the deck, otherwise known as the stove, splattered from the spitting sauce the night before.
lunch we ate outside, on the deserted island that is the screened-in porch. he astride his two-wheel pirate ship, still with training wheels. me, i was aiming pb triangles toward his open mouth, in between the arghs. he, not willing to put down sword or eagle, which filled in nicely for the parrot we did not have.
we are quite a pair, my little mate and i. and now, 18 days and subtracting, our mornings that i thought would never end, are drawing to a close.
my little kindergartener tells me every day. five weeks, four weeks, soon just three, ’til i’m in first grade, mommy.
no more mornings, he and i. no more no one in the house but he and i, doing whatever it is we fancy.
funny how what once made you wince now makes you ache to let it go.
i remember the afternoon the stripe turned pink, and the dream i’d had the night before, the dream that i, at nearly 44, was, despite all odds, with child in my womb, i remember how the dream turned real and rather sobering right before my very eyes.
and i remember, truth be told, i gasped. not wholly out of joy. partly out of oh-my-god, here i go again.
i felt the shiver up and down my spine. of nursing through the night, here comes another round. of can i do this, can i muster what it takes, can i start this show all over? of needing once again to find a sitter for the days i work. of mornings that would not be mine. of a dream job that i’d just gotten the afternoon before, which now, now that the dream came true, would not be mine after all. oh well.
there were days, i tell you, when i could only imagine a morning to myself. invitations i turned down because i had a little person not always welcome in the land of grownup chatter. doctor’s appointments i couldn’t make because where do you put a very busy two-year-old when they’ve got you up in stirrups.
but now those days are numbered, just two digits and dwindling. and i, once again, find myself milking every morning for all its worth.
i am licking every drop from the bowl that is our breakfast together. i am sucking all the marrow out of our expeditions to unearth the earth worms, study cicadas under magnifying glass, find the alphabet letter on the butterfly’s wings. (he tells me his kindergarten teacher insists every butterfly has a letter on its wing. hmm. so far we’ve not found so much as a single dotted i; but then the joy is thoroughly in the chase when it comes to butterflies.)
oh sure, we’ll have summers, at least the weeks that bracket camp, now that camp is what you do instead of taking to the woods and sidewalks for the summer.
but never again will he and i have our mornings in the way we have them now: peanut butter and jelly for two, please. and we’ll have a long tall milk to boot. and could you seat us in a booth? one of us occasionally still slithers onto the other’s lap.
true, too many mornings i’ve been holed in here away from him, shooshing him off to play because i had a.) a deadline, b.) a phone call, c.) no good reason, really.
just across from where i type i have an old pine writing table, the kind with a slanted lid that opens and closes and holds a writer’s paper at just the right angle so he or she can dash off a missive while standing on two feet, the way it used to be.
there, on the pine lid with the little lip that keeps the paper from gliding to the ground, i keep tucked the hand-made pink paper valentine he sprinkled two years ago with piles of red glitter, tied with a sparkly green ribbon, and onto which his preschool teacher penned the words he dictated: “dear mama and daddy. i like you. i want you to play with me when you’re not busy. i love you.”
ouch. i have kept the scorching truth out for all to see, most especially for me, since the day he slipped it in my hand, when he was merely three and calling it just exactly as he saw it.
it’s been my shameless reminder ever since that these hours are treasures, these days are fleeting, and now the fleeting’s nearly done.
the pb from here on in will be packed and tucked into a paper bag. the mornings i’ll spend all by myself. the only argh’ing this house will hear will be me growling at my lonesome state.
the mornings i thought would never end will now, each one, feel like forever, but only because i’ll be keeping one eye on the clock, wondering what my little mate is up to, far far away in a land where mommies dare not lurk.
excuse me, i’ve got a cheek upstairs that is waiting for a kiss. or at least i’ve got lips that long to plant a wet one (or two or three) on that rosy little cheek. before it goes and turns into a first-grader.

tell your tale of aching as you let go of one whole passage of your life, your child’s life? isn’t it odd how sweet the days become when you know the days are dwindling? people tell me the beauty of sending high schoolers off to college is that seniors have a way of making everyone in the house oh-so-ready for the departure. i can’t imagine.
i know i’m wired oddly, but i thank God i jump the gun when it comes to aching in advance because somehow it makes all the days count for so much more when you feel them slipping through your fingers….don’t you think? or not?

p.s. prayers, please, for a little baby girl from ethiopia, named anna, now living in chicago. anna’s mama asks that we all storm the heavens. her little fighter, who already survived tuberculosis, meningitis and pneumonia while in ethiopia, was just diagnosed with something called infantile spasms, and the neurologist tells the mama the prognosis is not good. i have laid eyes on this sweet baby girl; she is heaven sent.