“Baby seals,” he coos. “Funny!” It’s 5am and my 19-month old son – H – is chattering from his crib.
There’s no soothing him back to sleep, no quick pop of the binky to send him back to bed.
My eyelids unfurl like spring leaves, allowing my eyes to adjust to the empty spot on the other side of the bed. Thousands of miles away my husband – Big A – is still snoozing in a king-sized hotel bed in Birmingham, Alabama. An iPod will ease him into the morning. He will shower in a pristine white tub and dry off with fluffy white towels. While watching the last night’s sports scores flash across a high-def TV screen, Big A will tuck his pressed shirt into his flat-front suit pants and pack a briefcase. On deck for this morning: A business meeting over muffins and freshly brewed coffee at a local bakery. Big A has been gone for four days – Florida, Texas and Alabama.
I shuffle to our bureau to swap out my pajamas. Holding up a shirt crusted with H’s graham-cracker drool from yesterday, I slide it over my head and pull on my black yoga pants. I brush my teeth and as I wipe my mouth, I realize the towel has soured overnight – one too many hands dried.
I cruise into the kitchen, dumping yesterday’s stale coffee and reloading the pot. Sippy cup of milk in hand, I creak open H’s door.
“Big hug,” he calls out, arms wide open. I sing, “Good morning, bubby!”
Today will be variations on yesterday: eating, playing, napping, running errands and cleaning H’s endless trail of crumbs, park sand and toys.
But there will be moments I want to capture like fireflies in a glass jar: the way H raises his eyebrows, his face splattered with black cookie crumbs, and asks for another Oreo; how he reaches up to hold my hand as he climbs our front stairs; the scent of his neck, damp with tears, as we hug away a boo-boo.
But four days into Big A’s sojourn from our family life, single motherhood has worn at my patience. When H squirms like a captured alligator during his diaper change, I fight the urge to pin his legs down. I want to snarl, “Not again!” as he drops green peas to a happy roll across the kitchen floor.
Bedtime. I exhale, closing H’s door as he sings himself to sleep.
Big A is due home tonight at 10. Each time I look at the clock, I re-calculate how many hours until he walks through the door. I check his flight status, willing the plane to go faster, pleading for no delays.
Tomorrow, we will wake up to the sounds of a creaking crib under H’s jumping feet and the refrain of “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep.”
Big A will get up, make the coffee and deliver the sippy cup.
I will dream an extra hour, shower and shave my legs, apply some eye make-up and blush. As Big A and H build a tower of wooden blocks, I will sneak out of the house and head to the supermarket alone, where I have time to caress plums and peruse apples. I will stop for a coffee on the way home and sip it in silence in the parking lot.
And when I come home, weighed down by bags of groceries, I will drop everything and open my arms when H calls out, “Big hug!”