Bedtime Stories

We begin and end our days in darkness right now. Seattle is in full-blown winter mode, and so am I—hunkered down and hibernating in this long season. Just getting myself and my three-year-old dressed and out the door in time for work and preschool feels daunting.

To top it off, he is especially clingy right now. At bedtime, he demands I stay with him until he’s fully asleep, keeping my hand in his, and waking up if I move an inch before he is fully out. He asks me to “make stories,” though the word “ask” is far too polite for what actually transpires. And, then at some point in the middle of the night he wanders in to our bedroom to spend the rest of the night curled up on his pillow bed on our floor, grabbing my foot on his way in, as if to make sure I am actually here. In the morning, long before it’s light, he leans over my face to say he could “use some breakfast.”

I know this season will not last; that it is sweet to be needed and loved; that he will move on, and out; and that I will miss all of this, but, right now, I am tired.

It is a season that feels like it has no end.

Last week, though, as we lay in bed next to each other on his Spider-Man sheets, he told me he had a story for me.

“Once about a time there was a little girl named “mom,” he began in his squeaky voice.

What followed was a mix of all his favorite things—tractors, excavators, snakes and Stars Wars characters that he has learned about at school.

It was a shock to the system: How much he’s changing, how clever he is to think up stories, how similar we are—me, the girl who would never dream of breaking curfew but would read all through the night with a flashlight under her covers and him, this funny boy who loves telling stories—all of this new life even though on the outside nothing at all feels like it has changed.

I talked to a friend a few weeks ago, and something she said poked at a dream that I had all but forgotten. It’s been dormant for so long, it felt pointless to keep trotting it out anymore. But she spoke, and immediately all of it came rushing back, this story burning in me that I want to write. All of the hope, all of the longing. Even in the midst of the day-to-day, it had not gone away.

I think much of life—and motherhood—is a metaphor. We don’t see fully what will be, only glimpses. But every once in awhile someone reminds us that we have a story to tell and then listens when we speak.

CLAIRE CAREY DEERING believes less is more, in writing and in life.

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