My face

“My children.”

“My children, ”  I find myself repeating, measuring time with the phrase- not sure if the fact that they are mine or that there are two makes this my mantra. My eyes are blurred, staring over my left shoulder out the living room window. I am sitting on the floor, where I have been for an hour. Now I am rocking side to side to get Elias to sleep. His brother, home from preschool this morning with an ear infection and a fever, is asleep in my lap, or rather sort of in my lap. He is wrapped in a brown fleecy blanket between my legs which are stretched out in a “V”. His head is on my right quadricep and his feet on my left ankle. As he was falling asleep he kept asking, “why do I have to be be sick  mama?”

He has taken to calling me Mama.

Until the end of his life–last year– my grandfather referred to his mother as “Mama.” Her name was Roxy. I have her posture, Pop always told me. And her sense of smell.

Jonas has that same sense of smell. “What do I smell?” he asks daily when I open a jar of honey, a container of peas. Sometimes, even I can’t smell anything when he asks.

“Mama?” He asks.

“Yes Jonas?” But he is already asleep. I know he feels terrible, because at 3 he has fallen asleep that suddenly no more than 2 or 3 times in his life.

“My children” I think again, rocking Elias back to sleep as his eyes blink open and then shut. I can surrender to this now: to my children. My body, caught, at this moment, under theirs. Held still by them literally. Their breathing a not quite even rhythm–first one inhales then the other. Interspersed with small noises from Elias. Elias’ breath is faster, still the quick breath of someone so new to breathing. His fists are just now opening to the world .

Standing earlier this week in front of our mirror in the living room– my figure, holding Elias, framed by its wide thick dark wood, I watched him in the mirror as he drifted off to sleep and I swayed and bounced. The sound of Jonas upstairs with his father drifting downstairs– “let’s spell Rodanthe” he says, dictating the nightly ritual of writing friends’ names with foam letters on the side of the tub.

Foggy eyed, my vision shifts from Elias’ closed eyes in the mirror to my own. Still swaying, still bouncing,the hardwood floor squeaking, I see my children in my face, rather than my own. It is as though,  with two of them,  my face has been transformed into theirs. It makes me appreciate my face– in the same way I have always appreciated the sense of smell and the posture I have from Roxy who Pop loved enough to call Mama his whole life.

“My children”, I say again, smiling as Jonas bounds down the steps, “Mama, I’m ready” he yells, as he approaches with two bedtime books in hand. Elias is awake again from the yelling.

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