Sunday, November 24, 2013

The chickens

Lying down with G at night for snuggles is an aerobic activity, and you're on defense. He talks incessantly, holds your ear, turns sideways, pulls up your shirt enough so he can put the bare soles of his feet against your belly, rolls back, hands to ear, rolls again, soles to belly, rolls in. He tucks his head in the crook of your neck and uses both of his hands to hold both of your ears. Your nose rests against his hair; your lips lie on his forehead. If you kiss him, he'll swat his skin. That kiss wasn't appropriate. This is almost-asleep time. No distractions.

You can't leave before he's all the way asleep. Not because you're hungry or need the bathroom or the phone is ringing. The only exception he makes is for his girls. If one of the girls calls, he always releases you. Sometimes you just have to say, "I love you, G. I'll be back in a bit. I'm going to check on the girls." If you don't plot your escape, you wait until his breathing slows. Gently, incrementally, he releases one ear, then the other. When he truly falls asleep he rolls to face away from you altogether. Only then can you climb out without fear of reprisal. You're out in ten minutes.

When you snuggle L at night she talks incessantly in the dark and asks a million questions but at only your second attempt at an answer she tells you to be quiet. You're too loud for bedtime. She's asleep before you kiss her forehead in mollification. "Okay, love," you whisper. She snores gently in response. You're out in three minutes.

When you snuggle E, you need patience. Problems heretofore unknown reveal themselves, but so do wonders, dreams and exquisite observations. She never feels tired no matter what the day held, and you talk. You listen and comfort and advise and conspire and write dialogue for potential conversations in potential social situations. You wonder how to help her turn that mind down so she can sleep, but she is the arbiter of soothing and she's only ready when she's ready. You develop lingo with her in all these nightlight conversations. She's almost never asleep when you leave. You've been in there at least twenty minutes and she'll never go to sleep unless you walk away. You offer a final volley, a sign, a bookmark in the conversation, a gesture to save this spot for tomorrow. Neither of you remember its origin, this verbal secret handshake. You say, "I love you, chicken doodle."

She answers, I love you, chicken noodle. You leave the room and she rolls toward the wall. She closes her eyes.

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