By Patricia Darak
I put down my pencil and calculator and turned, focused entirely on my should-be-sleeping-by-now angel. “Yes, darling?”
Her eyes, already large, opened wider. “I can’t sleep. Can you read me another story?”
I gazed at her for a few seconds, then turned and shut my textbook and binder. Glancing at the clock, I realized that my looming deadline would pass me by.
“Mommy? Are you coming?”
Smiling widely, I swept her into my arms, kissed her round pink cheek, and headed toward her bedroom without further hesitation. “But of course, my princess! I was just thinking of you. How did you know that I wanted to give you another story? Is your brain magic?”
She let loose with a musical wave of giggles and hugged my neck tightly. “I love you, Momma.” She sighed, then laid her head on my shoulder. “You’re the best Momma in the whole world.”
I kissed her on the top of her golden mane and gave her another smile. “And you’re the best you in the whole world.”
After I set her down on her bed, I chose a few storybooks from her bookshelf and made my way over to my princess with the expectantly smiling little face. She pulled back the covers and invited me in to snuggle while I read to her. I slipped off my shoes and slid in next to her, then lifted the books up as she tucked in the blanket around me.
“Okay, Momma, you can start now.”
Thirty (or so) minutes, three stories, and many squeals of delight later, my princess was fast asleep with a small smile on her lips and her teddy bear clutched in her folded arms. Carefully, I leaned over to kiss her forehead and slipped out from under the covers and made my way to the door, stopping to smile down at my baby who knew how to organize my priorities for me. Homework could be done anytime, but story time and snuggle time come first.
Quietly closing her door, I made my way down the hall so that I could check on my other two sleeping angels. I stepped silently into their bedrooms and kissed them lightly on their foreheads, then closed their bedroom doors, each with the same happiness that I felt with their little sister.
Making my way back to my desk, all hope of finishing my homework on time now abandoned, I sank down into my chair and closed my eyes. I wanted to think about their sleeping expressions and I did; but other thoughts intruded. Dark thought wrung from newspapers and seemingly endlessly covered accounts of children neglected, abused, abandoned, and worse, swam up from my subconscious and briefly lodged in the forefront of my mind. Horrible actions, angry people, innocent children, and every stomach-churning combination of the three made me suddenly weep, covering my face with my hands as if to shut out the thoughts and pictures coming from my own head.
When my tears subsided, I washed my face and stared at myself in the mirror.
It wasn’t just stories on the news. I had grown up with friends’ stories of welts from spankings that took weeks to heal, either at home or in the principal’s office. How had we all thought that such behavior was normal? Or even worse, justified? I shook my head and broke the painful reverie. Stop it, I told myself. Just stop it.
I went back to each of my children, now all deeply asleep, and carefully gave them kisses and snuggles, making sure not to wake them and thanking everything that was good in the world that I had been spared and that, in turn, my children would be spared. I had married a man who had the same beliefs as myself, and who cherished the children and their innocence as much as I did.
Every day we tell each other that we love each other and every day hugs and kisses and laughter are freely given and honestly felt.
And hopes for the new year and all the years beyond?
I hope that my children (and their children, and their children, etc.) can and will grow up mentally, physically, creatively, and spiritually healthy and happy.
I hope that my children (and their children, and their children, etc.) can and will grow old gracefully and full of wisdom and love their family and themselves with all of their hearts.
I hope that the world grows to be a world that encourages and cherishes and holds forth opportunity, not only for my children, but for all children (and all people, for that matter).
I hope that my husband and I can share a long and loving life together, secure in the knowledge that we did our best to live our lives to the fullest.
I hope that gratitude remains a constant part of our daily thoughts and love remains the basis of our existence.
I hope that we, and everyone that we know, have a wonderful holiday and a wonderful every-other-day-of-the-year.