The familiar voice calls from her bedroom. I open her door and see her eyes peering above the fuzzy pink blanket. "Will you turn on the outside lights?" I can barely make out her voice above the softly playing lullabies. It is quiet and tired. I tell her I will and can see the smile form in her eyes.
"Thank you, Mommy."
As I walk to the other side of the house to turn on the outside lights I see our favorite baby carrier, draped over the hamper, waiting for its turn in the washing machine. It is soft and floppy, the deep burgundy had faded and worn with age and love. The once shiny black plastic clips were worn and matte from use.
I smiled at the memories of that carrier. It was once the only way our tiny baby would fall asleep. Securely strapped onto Daddy’s chest, snuggled into the plush cotton, she would settle and eventually sleep while he paced the length of our apartment. If the weather were warm enough he would wander outside into the neighborhood, dog in tow, wearing our restless child until she finally would succumb to the steady rhythm of his heart. A heart that would do anything for her.
My fingers traced the buckles, memories of helping to unlatch the carrier and transfer our sleeping infant to bed rushed in. We would pray silently that she wouldn’t wake. I would hold my breath and quietly unclip the straps while my husband gently scooped her out of the carrier and onto the bed. Some nights we were successful and would fall next to her into an exhausted heap. Other nights, as soon as she felt the mattress beneath her, she would stir and fuss. I would hold her close, nursing her until she finally gave in and her breathing became slow and deep. Sleep would win, for that moment. I would breath it in. Bask in it.
I blinked back tears of nostalgia. Those seemingly endless nights somehow managed to slip away so quickly. The carrier that we couldn’t imagine an evening without now collected dust, waiting for its turn in the washer and I was walking to turn on the outside lights. I remember being in the midst of the sleepless storm, thinking it would never end. Thinking that the ache I felt from exhaustion was permanent.
I flipped the switch and headed back to her room. "They are on. Is that good?" I asked her.
"It perfect, Mommy, thank you."
Her eyes smiled at me once more, but this time with more sleepiness in them.
"Good night, peanut. I love you."
"I love you, too, Mommy."
She murmured as she slipped into a calm sleep.
I know there may be other requests tonight. Water and new jammies, most likely. Maybe even another story. Possibly a cookie. I will comply with a couple and tuck her back in. We will laugh when she asks for a cookie or if she can sleep in her party dress. I will remind her that she needs her rest and to close her eyes, try to sleep. I will not allow frustration or exhaustion in. I will remember when she would not sleep on her own. When she needed me to be touching her to sleep. When she needed Daddy’s heartbeat to soothe her.
After the final request of the night, I silently close the door as she drifts off to sleep in the glow of the light outside her bedroom window. I stop and close my eyes. Soaking up this moment, right now. I smile and walk down the hallway, still hearing the lullabies coming from her room. I know someday, not too many years from now, we will be decorating for Christmas. We will be hanging lights outside and I will remember when my little girl couldn’t sleep without the soft glow of the light through her bedroom window. I will laugh at the memories of her post bedtime requests to sleep naked and have a snack.
Tonight’s tiny irritations will become tomorrow’s fond memories. I don’t want to look back and feel like I rushed through. I don’t want to look back and wish I had done things differently. So, for now, I will help her out of her jammies and under her softest blanket. I will tuck her into bed for the second time and we will have Christmas lights hanging and lit in February.
Join me on Tuesday, March 25, at the River Garden in downtown Brattleboro. I will be there for a "Meet Your Columnist" series presented by The Strolling Of The Heifers. Bring your lunch and hang out with me (and the kiddo). I am looking forward to meeting you all!
Michelle writes from the home she shares with her husband, their three year old daughter and two dogs. She is the authority on nothing and may just be the most outgoing shy person you will ever meet. Her daughter is convinced she is a super hero but most days she feels more like the super villain. Read more of her work on her blog at www.JuiceboxConfession.com or "like" her on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/JuiceboxConfession. All love letters can be sent to JuiceboxConfession@gmail.com.