the house was blanketed in little else but moonlight. the clock ticked from down the stairs and around a bend or two. the red digits that burn beside my bed–there only simply because they get the job done, there in the middle of the night when you roll and see them flashing the wee, wee hours–they broadcast, 11:01.
i was dozing when the footsteps padded up the walk. so all i heard was the click of the door. and the breathing that followed, the footsteps up the stairs.
i knew right away whose steps those were. you memorize those things.
and then i heard, through the gauzy mostly-darkness: “mom? can i come talk?”
and so, a summer’s night turned sweeter than a cantaloupe cut open, spilling, melon juices running off the cutting board, melon in july the sweet you wait for, perfect sugar stewed in sun and farmer’s field.
“mind if i lie down?’ the long-bodied boy asked, politely, though he didn’t wait for any grunt of answer, throwing his lanky self upon the sheets in darkness.
how long had it been since we’d lay side-by-side, this boy who as a babe slept every night curled beside me so i never missed his gruntings or his midnight peeps when once again he needed mama’s milk?
once he’d thrown his skinny jeans upon the sheets, his curls upon the pillow, i heard the deep, deep sigh.
i assure you i’d roused myself from sleep. i was wholly at attention. it’s what happens when your end-of-high-school child throws himself upon your bed: you listen hard. you savor every word.
what flowed beyond the sigh were sentences and paragraphs, whole stories of moonlit walks and beaches, of how he saw the world, and more importantly, the human heart.
as he talked, considered contours of the human race, the soul, what’s right, what’s not, i lay there soaking in the whole of it. every blessed drop of the notion that i’d a 17-year-old almost-man who understood through and through that wherever i am in the world, there’s a heart that wholly listens.
oh, there are many things that i am not. i grind myself daily that i’m not at the park, throwing, catching balls with the little one who would swell at such attentions. i do not make weekly trips to the library, as i wish i did, trudging home with loads of books and the little boy in tow, the one i cannot get, without squalls of protest, to lift a book. i wander past a treehouse, just built down the block, and think, now why didn’t i surrender a corner of the yard to old-fashioned summer construction, the sort engineered and executed by a child equipped with load of wood and pure imagination?
oh, i scold myself plenty. sadly heard too often as a child, shame on you. and shame i did absorb.
but there is one small arena of the heart, of motherhood, that i can proudly claim, learned the hard way, learned through all the bumps and bruises of the heart to which i’ve paid keen attention: i seem to know how to listen, how to take my children by the hand, traverse the landscape of the heart, the bumps, the planes, the high places.
it all came rushing in to me the other night, there in the murky moonlight darkness. i heard the boy i love tell stories, and in the ones he told, i heard that he too has learned to forge head on through the shadows of the heart, to seek the clearings, to know they’re just around the bend. to breathe blind faith into thickets all around.
at long last we heard footsteps on the bluestone walk. heard the click of the door, and more steps up the stairs. it was the father of the man-boy, home at last from work.
and there he found us, mother and son, lit only by the shafts of moonlight, telling stories, listening, as one day became another.
“can i come talk?” the child asks.
and the answer, always, always, says the mother: i am so deeply blessed that you lay your heart on mine.
holy God, bless the children and their stories and the mothers born to listen…..
whose heart did you turn to when you were growing up? whose heart do you turn to now? who turns to yours?