Time is a thief. I know; she’s been stealing from me. I’ve been too busy to notice — with laundry and schedules, work and deadlines, pick-ups and kindergarten applications. And she’s taken advantage of my absence. But I noticed her at bedtime last night as I was putting the baby down.
“Book!” He cooed, clutching the cardboard pages.
“Yes. But can you say libro?”
“Leepo,” he tried. “Leepo”
“Almost, baby… libbbbro…”
“Nah. No. Tic tic.”
“Not tic tic… libro.”
“No, mama, tic tic”
That’s when I realized she’d been messing with my baby. And suddenly I saw traces of her everywhere. She’s been through my big boy’s clothes, shrinking his pants and elongating his feet. She’s been in his head too so that when he looks at me with his big eyes, I can tell he sees and knows things he still doesn’t understand. I know she’s aged him. She’s been with my husband as well – leaving white hairs in his chest and soft wrinkles around his eyes– so I’m always reminded of her passing. And the harder I push her away, the more vengeful she becomes — giving me precious thoughts in the moments before sleep and stealing them during the night. I’ve pleaded with her; begged her to leave us alone. To leave my children be; look away from them when they play a mixture of hedgehog blocks and Legos. To go away when my big boy makes up fantastical stories with a self-built spaceship in his hand and the whole world in his eyes. When the baby drinks his bottle nestled against me, breathing in that familiar sound I’ve heard every day for almost two years, I pray that she’ll disappear. When the Mickey Mouse song comes on and my husband takes me by the waist, and we dance and laugh as if time has stopped, I believe that she’s grown tired of us.
But then I’m reminded I can’t chase her away, because I need her; because it’s selfish of me to want her gone; because the kids need her even more. Time. The baby needs her. He’s almost mastered jumping as he moves up to his tippy toes and throws his head in the air, his face radiant with wonder. And where would my big boy be if he never learned to read all of the wondrous stories hidden in books? My husband needs her too; she suits him. And me… Maybe she’ll help me breathe and understand all of the things I still can’t grasp. We need to coexist, I know it. So, I pray we’ll find a compromise. Maybe she can steal a little less; ignore us for a few moments on a Saturday or Sunday when all four of us are nestled together, chasing away sleep and the draft of winter. Maybe she can slow down a bit. Just sometimes. Just enough so I can say: Yes. “Yes, let’s stay longer.” “Let’s take the long way.” “Let’s bake a cake; you can break the eggs.” “Let’s stay in bed.” “No, I don’t mind.” “Yes, you can do it yourself … we have time.”