The house is still and quiet, its many room filled with the kind of stillness that a bustling home suddenly produces when all its inhabitants huddle together in one place, under blankets with bowls of popcorn in their laps and a movie to watch. Julie Andrews is dancing on the television, singing about jolly holidays with Bert as she prances up a chalk-drawn road. She’s really so very perky it’s astounding.
I feel the heaviness of a busy day weighing down my body, pulling me into a sleepy kind of cocoon that is intoxicating. My eyes close and I don’t care about holidays or dancing penguins or how to get the medicine down with just a spoonful of sugar. I crave sleep.
Just as I drift along into unconscious bliss, a shadow passes in front of my face, and that’s when I feel it. A kiss on my forehead— quick, but tender and kind.
I know who it is, even with my eyes closed. My son. My man-sized, charming, goofy teenage son saw me sleeping and kissed me.
It’s like winning the lottery, except better.
The older my children get, the fewer kisses they save for me. When my babies were small I got dozens of sloppy, open-mouthed kisses every day. Toddlers were good for ten smooches at a time or more; all I had to do was ask; but usually there was some kind of sticky substance on their faces that made the encounter less appealing. Once they were in elementary and middle school, I could point to my cheek and each child would place their lips on my cheek, partly out of obligation and partly because they wanted to.
But to be sought out like this by a teenage child feels like a miracle.
That one kiss catapulted me from my almost-dreaming state of oblivion, back through the years, from one magical moment of motherhood to the next.
The day he learned to make me my coffee and then proudly handed me my cup. The first time he told a joke that was so legitimately funny I peed my pants just a smidge. The way he used to wink at me from the pitching mound, cocky and brilliant. His pudgy little boy hand pointing out the cars he liked as they drove by. The giant backpack he lugged on his miniature shoulders into preschool. His toddler voice calling every round thing he saw a ball: the actual basketball, the basketball hoop, the earrings I wore, the sun I the sky— they were all balls. His baby eyes, staring at me like he could read my soul from the very first breaths he took in my arms.
This kiss on my forehead is pregnant with every memory I have of him. Although it seems impossible for my love to grow, the sweet peck on my brow has birthed additional love in my heart for who he was, who he is, and who he’s becoming.
I will miss this someday, the everyday blessing of having a boy sit beside me while we watch a movie he doesn’t really care about. I will miss having a bed in my house that he sleeps in every night. I will miss making him smoothies and taping his ankle for football practice and taking him shoe shopping for the first day of school.
I have been loved by him more than any mother could ever deserve in this life. If this kiss is the last one ever, it would be enough to pay back all the sleepless nights and all the infuriating conflicts of the mysterious relationship a mother and son share. Even so, I know there will be more, although the kisses will grow more sporadic as the years carry him away from home. But scarcity doesn’t scare me. Scarcity only increases the value of each moment of connection.
I couldn’t help but love this boy from the moment I first held him. Now he’s big enough to lift me up off the floor and carry me around. Life is a strange topsy turvy ride, making reality morph and shift from year to year. The impossible becomes the everyday right under our noses.
I don’t want him to grow up and move away. I can’t wait to see who he becomes and how far he will go. I dread and long for the future in equal amount, and my greatest hope is that we don’t miss the glimpse of Eden we are to each other along the way.
This is the miracle of motherhood: that we have the chance offer them a love that lasts to the very end. And this is the magic in the kiss: that they choose to love us back.