still happens at least once a day. my baby boy, the one now tipping 50 pounds, climbs aboard. he sinks into my hip, grabs on tight around my neck, washes me in kisses, or simply leans his curly head right against my neck.
it’s often first thing in the morning, when he is drowsy still, hasn’t dusted off the sleepy eyes. but sometimes, like yesterday, as we waited for the snow to fly, it’s simply because we still get hungry for each other’s skin.
oh, goodness, that sentence almost sounds like something you would read someplace far from here. but i trust you know me well enough to know perhaps just what i mean.
it could not be cleaner, this hungriness for skin-to-skin. this mama hunger for the baby who once was. for the baby evaporating right before my eyes.
it will all be gone soon, i know, i know. but now, there are wisps of it around, and i am all but licking it from the spoon.
i ache to think that someday not too far from now i will wake up and the baby will be gone, all gone. perhaps it’s that, that makes me so very hungry now. i am committing the baby bits of him to somewhere deep inside me. it’s a dream, perhaps, that i never want to wake from. but, of course, i know i will, and as i drift awake, as he gets big before my eyes, i hold on tight, i cannot get my fill of his deliciousness.
sometimes, i’m overtaken. i cannot keep my nose, my lips, from nuzzling in his baby cheek. cannot keep my hands from reaching out and swooping him to the hip that can barely keep from caving in under the oh-my-goodness growing weight of him.
oh, he is six, all right. very much a big boy. can’t tie his shoes, not quite yet. still stumbles over syllables, when they come one piled on another.
but if i nuzzle close enough, if i hoist him the way i used to do, pretend that he’s not 50 pounds with legs that dangle to beyond my knees, i can catch one last whiff of baby boy before he slips away.
more and more these days i catch myself drinking in the whole of him. i look down, i see legs still in little blue jeans. almost comical those elastic-waisted jeans, as if trying hard to make like big boy pants while winking at the truth.
i see puffy baby hands. not the muscled ones of big boys, or his papa. these hands, round with one fading dimple yet, still fumble with a fork sometimes. still can’t cut with scissors, not without looking as if a gerbil had at that paper, all ziggy and zaggy with dangling bits of cutting that would not succumb to safety blades.
and the cheek. the cheek, all rosy often. and soft and fuzzy still. not fuzzy like the manchild’s; in fact, i’d call that one prickly now, the cheek of he who puts a razor to it once a month or even twice.
no, this is soft like, well, yes, velvet rub of peach, or underside of kitten’s neck, or petal of a summer’s rose. this is soft, but even more, it is irresistible. once i start to sniff it, kiss it, rub my cheek against it, it takes everything i’ve got to stop and breathe again.
it is, i know because my other one’s a man now, a chapter that will pass me by, any day now. and i’m not ready yet. don’t know if any mama ever really gets her fill.
i think it’s how we’re wired. my baby-making years are gone. i look old and older when i look into the mirror. but still, there is someone soft and little in my house. it’s as if, if i taste the sweetness of his skin, if i memorize his weight against my weary bones, i’ll always have him somewhere deep inside. where, after all, a mama’s babe belongs.
do you hunger for your little one, or for the days when your big ones were little? were you mad for the soft spot at the nape of their neck? or was it their toes that sent you to the moon? do you have a nuzzler? did you? i’m not saying, not at all, that there are fewer merits in the ones who drop their stinky shirts and socks all over their sleeping pits, i’m just saying, of course, that as the little ones slip through our fingers, there stirs a hunger that’s hard to fill. how ‘bout you?