I'm TOO tired, she said to me. We were lying in her bed in the dark after a long, busy day. Tell me a story so you can talk for a long time and I can listen and I don't have to talk and I can fall asleep while you tell it to me.
"Sure, love," I responded. "What kind of story?"
Tell me something from when you were my age.
And so I began.
"When I was your age, we lived in Pennsylvania, in Allentown. Your Gramps taught at the college there, and it was just down the street from our house." I lightly walked my fingers down her bare arm. I saw her lips smile in the darkness.
"At the bottom of the hill was a street and across the street was a big park. And in the middle of the park was a large pond. All around the park were ginkgo trees, which I thought were the best trees ever, because their leaves are shaped like fans and I thought they were so pretty. Actually, I still think they're really pretty." I used my hand to fan her closed eyes with a whisper of air. She murmured, smiled again, and nestled tighter against me.
"Your Gramps used to take me for walks down to the park. We'd cross the street and walk under the ginkgos and I always wanted to go to the pond" (I drew a circle on her open palm) "because I loved to cross the wooden bridge." (I marched my fingers across the imaginary circle.)
"We used to stop at the tallest point of that little bridge." I carried my fingers backwards halfway across the circle. "From there, we'd throw food down to the water to feed the ducks. My favorites were the mallards, with their bright green heads. They swam everywhere in that water." I glided my fingertips in figure eights and curlicues against her skin. The last smile clung to her cheeks and rose and fell with her steady breath. Her eyes didn't flutter.
"Sometimes we'd bring slices of old bread to feed the ducks, and we had to throw the pieces in one at a time, to make it last a little while." I tapped her in a line, like playing half a scale without a keyboard. "But my favorite was when we'd bring popcorn. We'd let it rain everywhere on the surface of the water, and the ducks came from all directions." I covered her delicately in skin contact confetti. Her breathing was slower, her face muscles, less composed.
"And then, when the food was gone, we always had that hill to walk back up to go home." I retraced my fingers' footsteps up her arm.
With the greatest of care I eased myself out of her bed. She looked so peaceful.
I lingered over her stillness for a moment and turned to leave when she spoke. In a firm, wide-awake voice she chided:
Yeah, that wasn't enough. Tell Daddy I need HIS snuggles now, ok? Thanks, Mama. She rolled over to face the wall and wait.