It's well past midnight now.
While your mama sleeps in her room, we hold vigil on the couch, you and I. The youngest in the house and the oldest.
Palm tree shadows dance in the glow of the streetlight. The house completely silent except for the impossibly sweet whisper of your breath.
The past week has been a beautiful blur in which every plan and demand and routine has faded into this sacred space where nothing must be done but loving you.
Pressing my lips against your feather-soft curls, my mind travels to the many babies I have loved. The other times I've felt this tender ache of responsibility and ecstasy.
First, as an aunt. Then a babysitter. A nanny. A friend. A neighbor. Finally, as a parent receiving my own curly-headed miracle. And now … the joy of my children's children.
So many diapers changed. So many trips around the room doing the bouncy-swaying-soothing walk. So many hours spent just like this - the warmth of a little body next to mine.
Those children have all grown - many now with children of their own. And you'll grow too. Becoming wriggly and impatient, full of ideas and confidence, busy with your own life's dreams … all-too-soon.
But for now, we are here - your fingers wrapped around mine.
I wonder how many more times I will be given this beautiful trust to sit alone in the dark with a child so new and fresh.
After all, my friends and I are long past having babies. My other grandchildren are growing like weeds (the beautiful sort). These days, I'm seldom tapped to babysit. Already, moments with babies are rare, which is why I've taken to smiling wistfully at frazzled young mothers in grocery stores.
So I hold you close on this precious night, my arms still strong. My mind still sharp. My heart so full.
The day will come (far, far off, I hope) when I will be the old lady in the center of the generational photo. Pressing my lips again to the soft head of the newest baby perched awkwardly on my lap
for a few moments before it is whisked out of my shaking hands.
No longer trusted to keep such a tiny one safe.
All these thoughts swirl as you whimper once and nestle deeper into my neck. You are content and so am I.
A siren's wail draws me back to this room. This moment. I really should go to bed now, but I want to stay a little longer. Cherishing you and all the memories. All the children. All the love.
I linger because I wonder how many more times I will hold someone this close to Heaven.