It’s 4am and I’m awake because the stupid cat was at our door, mistakenly left out. The words are there, too, keeping me from sleep.
I return the cat to her room, across the house, and shut the door this time, then lie back in bed. Still, the words won’t leave.
“Mom, can we die together?” she asked again the other day, out of the blue.
The deep ache burrows into my chest and leaves my eyes burning, even now. I have no good answer, the mystery of life so heavy and so complicated, reminding me that all we have for sure is now.
And now is busy, now if full. The five year anniversary of my motherhood approaches and yet I still struggle so much to be present. In fact, I was better then, in the beginning, at stopping to take it all in. Now, two kids, a job, a messy house, a phone that always offers something to pull me away. So many nights I go to bed vowing to actually play with them and then find myself repeating the same cycle of doing all day long.
As we drove to a play date at the park today, I saw a sports car wrapped around a pole. The same type of sports car my father drives. We were close to his office and it’s an unusual car. I called my dad, no answer. My confidence started to waver. I called my husband to confirm the badges on the rear bumper, and then I lost my ability to speak. Even though I knew there was a chance it wasn’t him, the magnitude of the possibility was paralyzing. I drove by his parking spot at work and sighed the deepest exhale to see he was there. The girls were confused by my emotion but it was impossible to stifle my relief.
Almost two and almost five and there’s no question life is precious and time moves quickly. M is already attempting to potty train herself, a jumble of words that mean real things but aren’t always easy to understand. And, curls, so many curls. E starts kindergarten in September and is bold and outspoken and easily commands a room. Both my babies but less so by the day.
Thanks to that cat and all her meowing, they both lie peacefully in our room, asleep. Some may cringe, but truthfully the last month or so of sharing space has offered the deep comfort of knowing we’re all together, safe. My small children sleeping alone across the house just doesn’t feel natural to me, each crackle of the baby monitor drawing my attention from my dreams. In the same room, however, something primal is satisfied by having my babies close. The sweetness of their breath, the occasional reassurance of their touch. It brings us back together from those busy days.
Still, I know it’s temporary, and once the kitten grows and stops that damn meowing we’ll all return to the more accepted sleep arrangements we’d worked so hard to create. For now, though, I’m going to relish it. I’ll climb back into bed, make promises to be a more present mother when we awaken, and let the rhythm of their breath lull me back to sleep.
Maybe I owe that cat a thank you, after all.