Lately I’ve been feeling how separate Annie and I have become. Sometimes when I need to be alone or get things done, I welcome that she is growing up, that she no longer clings to me or cries when I leave her sight. But there are other times when I would give anything to curl up beside her and have her melt into me the way she used to. And though she will at times allow me to get very close, she now may add an exasperated, “Mom, you’re crowding me." Or "Mom, can you take your head off my pillow?”
Even as she’s falling asleep and my presence is requested, it’s not the same:
“Pet my hair please. No, not like that. Sing to me please, no not that song. Don’t breathe like that Mommy, why do you smell like mustard?”
I’m no longer the person she wants to be with night and day, I’m no longer the one who walks into a room and makes everything better. I understand how much she loves me, that when she grows up she’ll come back to me, but our daily life together is so different than it once was.
This morning I was given a suggestion to post some of my favorite books that I read to Annie when she was little. I didn’t have to think about it for long; I knew immediately what would be on the list. But I did notice that as I began to gather their accompanying photos, my emotions started to stir. I hadn’t realized, until that moment, that I’ve been experiencing loss as Annie has, in the natural order of things, begun moving away from me.
Time spent reading to her was some of the most precious time in my life. Every night when I’d pick up a special book, even one we’d read a million times, there was always an anticipation between us, a knowing that we were about to go somewhere wonderful together. As I would read the title, then open to the first page, it was as if she and I were taking hold of each other’s hands and making a first step on a journey, that though familiar, always had a surprise in store. The night outside her window kept her safe, and the light beside her bed kept us suspended in time.
Perhaps now, when I attempt to join Annie on the bed as she reads to herself, I’ll chose to remember these moments. Because one day they too will be gone, and I’ll be wishing she were so close to me… that she would push me away.