A long time ago, far away, a wiggly baby dressed in a little purple-and-white striped number was handed over to me. She took one look at the tall, strange woman holding her and squinched up her face to cry.
Who could blame her? But I quickly whispered to her that it’s okay, it’s okay, I’m your mama and you’re my little girl and we’re going to have so much fun together. She unsquinched her face and kicked her legs and gave me a big grin and we went back to the hotel. I laid her on my stomach so we could have a chat and get to know each other, whereupon she peed on me a little. Which made me laugh. Which made her laugh. Which made me laugh. Which made her laugh, and this little closed loop of laughing went on for a while.
But then I needed to go to the bathroom, and not knowing yet if she were capable of rolling right off the bed, I lowered her into the little white iron crib that had been set up in the room. It’s okay, I’ll be right back, I said. She stopped laughing and looked up at me with dark, dark eyes. Those dark eyes followed me into the bathroom. She did not smile when I smiled and waved from the open door. She just watched me. I remember being overcome by how a baby has no control –beyond crying– over its world. How everything depends on decisions made by grownups. How the life of this dark-eyed child was now in my hands. The awesome, overwhelming responsibility of it all. Please, please let me be a good mother to her, I remember thinking. Please let me do right by her.
The T’ai Chi of Putting a Sleeping Child to Bed
– Alexandra Lytton Regalado
In the lull of evening, your son nested in your arms
becomes heavier and with a sigh his body
sloughs off its weight like an anchor into deep sleep,
until his small breath is the only thing that exists.
And as you move the slow dance through the dim hall
to his bedroom and bow down to deliver his sleeping form,
arms parting, each muscle defining its arc and release—
you remember the feeling of childhood,
traveling beneath a full moon,
your mother’s unmistakable laugh, a field of wild grass,
windows open and the night rushing in
as headlights trace wands of light across your face—
there was a narrative you were braiding,
meanings you wanted to pluck from the air,
but the touch of a hand eased it from your brow
and with each stroke you waded further
into the certainty of knowing your sleeping form
would be ushered by good and true arms
into the calm ocean that is your bed.
For more information on Alexandra Lytton Regalado, please click here.