Three years ago this month, I attended a baby shower for one of my girlfriends. Many of the guests decided to jump start Baby Noah’s library, and we gave his mother a huge basket full of books. Honestly, I don’t remember what I contributed.
“Don’t read it!” They shrieked, practically in unison. “Not here! Everyone who reads that book cries. You won’t be able to read it without becoming a weepy mess.”
Wondering what all the fuss was about, I opened the book and skimmed the story.
“Seriously guys? This book is wacko. She breaks into his house?!? That’s creepy!” I made fun of the book, which I now realize was ridiculously rude.
I did not cry. I didn’t find it even remotely emotional.
I didn’t think about the book for nearly two years. Someone gave Grace a copy when she was still tiny, but it had paper pages, and I tucked it away in her closet, safe from busy fingers.
This evening, in between her bath and her bed, Grace and I curled up in her recliner to read. She loves to be read to, and we read between one and two hours every single day. I first read one of my favorites, I Love You Stinky Face, but it proved to be an unwise choice for bedtime for a child currently prone to irrational fears. By the time we finished it, she was scared.
Next, I read our perennial favorite, Goodnight Moon, but Grace interrupted me to ask about monsters with one eye. (There’s a cyclops in Stinky Face.)
I went into the closet to look for books that would make Grace feel safe and secure and take her mind off of the monsters and alligators and aliens in Stinky Face.
The first book I spotted was Love You Forever, and I thought it would be perfect.
I read the first four pages with no problem. We talked about the baby and the boy and the pictures. I repeated the song again and again:
I’ll love you forever.
I’ll like you for always.
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be.
And then there was a problem.
A couple of tears rolled down my cheeks, and then a couple more. I read the next page, where the boy becomes a grown up and moves out of his mother’s house, through hoards of tears.
Grace looked up at me, “What happened, Momma? What happened? Momma all right?”
That made it worse, though I did manage to squeak, “Yes, honey. Momma is all right.”
By the time I got to the phone call, I was thinking about my own Grandma, who’s in her eighties and having some worrisome medical issues. I thought about a day when I won’t be able to call her on the phone. I thought about a day when Grace will live without me.
I was sobbing. I cried as if someone had already died. I couldn’t read any more. I tried, but I couldn’t.
Poor Grace was upset and confused.
A half hour later, when she was settling down to go to sleep, she wouldn’t let go of my hand.
Even as I covered her and tried to pat her back, she held on tight. “No back, Momma. Hand.”
The first time I tried to pull my hand out of hers, it woke her. “Hand, Momma,” she whispered.
I put my hand back into hers and lied down next to her until she began to snore.
As long as she’s living, her Momma I’ll be.
© 2009 – 2012, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved.