Goodnight Moon, Goodnight Wyatt

Dear Wyatt,

It wasn’t until late last night that I realized my mistake. When you sat up in your crib and cried, I sent your dad back in to your room so that I could get Mia to bed. This means that we read a book, say prayers and listen to music as I lay with her while she drifts off to sleep. This is how it’s always been.

In the great green room

there was a telephone

and a red balloon…

I’m sorry that you and Luke get cheated out of a bedtime routine as intimate as your sister’s.

and a picture of

the cow jumping over the moon…

I’m sorry that our evenings are so chaotic that by the time I think about reading a book you’re both arching your backs in our arms, yearning for the familiar landing of your beds.

And three little bears sitting on chairs

And two little kittens and a pair of mittens…

I’m sorry that the two of you haven’t yet figured out that you’re not the other’s enemy when it comes to my time or my affection or my arms or my lap.

And a comb and a brush and a bowl full of mush and a quiet old lady who was whispering hush…

Someday you will learn that I have room for you both — that I will make room for you both — but for now the constant friction between you (at least in matters where I’m concerned) makes it difficult to do anything intimate or quiet or routine-like in any way.

Goodnight room.

Good night moon.

Good night cow jumping over the moon.

Perhaps you’ve caught on before Luke, or perhaps Luke just doesn’t care, but about a week ago you figured out that life goes on outside your slumbering room. And so you cried and you didn’t stop until I slipped back in and we read Goodnight Moon by flashlight, Luke’s rhythmic breathing providing a soundtrack in the background.

Good night stars.

Usually a whir of energy and light in all your toddler glory, you were still and quiet, fingering the corner of a blanket as I read.

Good night air.

And then I closed the book, turned off the flashlight and laid you back down. I slipped back out of your room, and the next time I heard your voice it was morning.

Good night noises everywhere.

And so a routine began. You always cry now and I picture you waiting for me, for your story, for your last whispered words before sleep sets in. This is all you want from me. And yet, last night I forgot.

Looking back, your cries were harder and more wrought with frustration than usual, even when your dad went in to try to comfort you. You waited for me, wanted me, watched for me and eventually, you fell asleep.

It was later, after your sister and I had long since completed our bedtime routine and your dad and I watched the Oscars and turned off the TV, that I realized my mistake. I don’t know how I forgot but I did. And so I tiptoed into your room and whispered,

I’m sorry.




Just like the ocean, always in love with the moon

I was going through some files the other day and found this piece I wrote when Mia was probably three. The timing is spot-on as Mia and I had just stood at the window and looked at a very different kind of moon. A classic Halloween moon – large and luminous and reminiscent of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” She’s still just as enamored with the moon today as when she first discovered it.

“Just like the ocean, always in love with the moon.”

This is a line, or actually a snippet of a line, from a Jeff Buckley song that perpetually plays in the back corners of my brain. It might be the simple beauty of these words strung together, or just the staying power of Jeff Buckley’s unparalleled voice, but it’s always there.

At around 18 months old Mia discovered the moon. “Moon? Moon?” she would ask each night. And we would look through the window in her room until we found it. Sometimes I would talk about the moon, its color, its shape. Sometimes I would recite Hey Diddle Diddle or lines from Goodnight Moon, but mostly we just stared at it together in the silence of shadows and moonlight.

One evening as an ice storm was approaching and Zach was working late, Mia and I set off for the store. We went to stock up on necessities: ice cream and marshmallows and pop corn and graham crackers and baby fever-reducer because what kind of parent doesn’t have a fever-reducer in the dead of winter? So I bundled Mia into the car and we made our way to the store.

“Please,” I begged the sky. “Thirty minutes. That’s all I ask.”

It was maybe 5:00. The roads and the sky were dry, and stray sun rays filtered through dense clouds.

When we got to the store the aisles were crowded and the lines were long. One hour later, ice spit at our faces as I hefted the grocery bags in one arm and pulled Mia in to me. Already the streets were glazed with ice. I had just put Mia in her car seat and wrapped a blanket around her, when the ice picked up speed. “Thanks,” I mumbled to the sky, and then I saw it: the moon taking refuge behind the clouds. It was a sliver of moon sketched into a charcoal sky. But still, there it was.

“Moon,” I whispered on the intake of breath. On the exhale, I knew that she heard. Of course she heard.

“Moon?” She twisted her body in the car seat. “Moon? Moon?”

I looked at her and back at the moon and back at her. In a split second I considered it: Risk a cold, an illness, perhaps a replay of the Great Ear Infection of 2007? But I grabbed her anyway, throwing the blanket off and grappling with the seat buckle. I lifted her out of the car and stood in the grocery parking lot. The moon was straight above us.

“There,” I said. “Way up there.” She wasn’t looking up far enough. The ice fell fast and furious, chipping at our cheeks. I cupped my hand over Mia’s face and said, “There’s the moon.” But I wasn’t looking at the moon anymore. Her face was intense, searching for the moon that I said was there until she found it. She smiled wide, arched her back and pointed high overhead. “Moon,” she said. And then looking back at me, “Moon.”

…always in love with the moon.

Why is it that we have children at all, if not for the wonder of it?