Thursday, March 24, 2011

nights away from home, and at home

Vacations aren't always what you expect. Last Monday, Jimmy took the girls and I to the airport where we would fly into St. Louis to see my family for almost two weeks while he headed into a tough schedule at work, one that would keep him away from home both late nights and weekends. I didn't have much planned except to relax a little, let the girls hang out with their thrilled-to-pieces grandparents, and enjoy some time on my parents' sun porch with a cup of coffee in hand, enjoying spring in the midwest and their beautiful backyard waterfall.

Our trip has, in some ways, been exactly that. But I was caught off guard when Evie woke up on the first morning before I did and went straight to Grandma. Morning had been our last remaining nursing time, and I knew it was coming to an end, but was completely surprised by the sudden stop. She didn't nurse for the next four days, and I could feel my emotions crashing down on me along with an unexpected surge of hormones as my body adjusted. I tried several times to nurse her just one last time, to have a chance to say goodbye to her babyhood, and she responded to each attempt with absolutely zero interest. I was crushed.

On the fifth morning, though, she woke up at four a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep on her own. So I brought her into my bed, and there she nursed happily and greedily until we were both satisfied, knowing that this was the last time. We finally fell asleep cuddled together, and later when she woke up with the dim morning light, she turned to me and offered this amazing, delighting, absolutely beaming smile that said, "You're here! I am so happy that you're here!"

She knows how to make her mama completely, utterly happy.

All the same, I have found myself both on vacation with my children, and also sort of without them. My mom is amazing with them, and all too happy to wear herself out making them breakfast in the morning, keeping them occupied, fed, and diapered all day, and putting them to bed at night. After ten months of Evie not sleeping through the night, or doing anything close to it, it's hard not to take advantage of the break. So I've been heading to bed late, alone, turning on old episodes of My So-Called Life, feeling the cool spring air breeze in through the open window, listening to the leaves in the tall deciduous trees wave and rustle outside, the occasional distant train crossing the river below, and finally putting on a favorite album to listen to as I fall asleep.

Other than the fact that the favorite album is now Bon Iver, that I'm watching tv on my iPhone, the fact that I'm a thirty-three-year-old married mama of two, this nighttime routine is almost exactly the same as it was when I was in high school. And it feels like a gift, just like that last unexpected time to nurse my Evie. It is a gift I never expected, to have a week or more of nights of uninterrupted sleep, of late mornings, of lying in bed and feeling there is all the time in the world to dream. I feel seventeen. Except this time, instead of dreaming about all the things to come in my life, I am dreaming of all the things that were, too. It's like finding an old piece of myself that I've missed for years, and being able to spend time in it. It is a gift.

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