It is time for small boys to go to bed. And none too soon for this one, who loves bedtime. We’re at a movie, out doing something fun and “I just want to go to BED” gets moaned with slumping shoulders. I imagine him as a teen, sleeping til noon on a Sunday morning, the specter of who he will someday be lurking just behind him.
We head for his room, where he grabs all 5 of his special stuffed friends, his arms just barely encircling them. Climb into the cozy flannel sheets I put on a bit too early-“Was your bed nice and warm last night? I put on your flannel sheets.” “Yes, but maybe a little TOO warm…” says the sweaty sleeper. Always sweaty, hair damp and tousled, arms flung wide and head at an impossibly cockeyed angle. Fall is arriving in fits and starts as usual.
I lie down next to him, snuggling being one of his top activities, dad and I having tied in the “World’s Best Snuggler” category (although I daresay he is the best). I put my arm around his fuzzy back-he loves his feeties, sweaty or not-he is lying at a funny angle because his flu shot arm hurts and he doesn’t want to lie on it. The flu shot brought tears and an Oreo Coolatta from Dunkins, since I am a sucker for this one. He hugs Boonga, the favorite stuffed friend, extra tight and says “I wish Boonga was real”, reminding me of the Velveteen Rabbit. Boonga is still the most important friend, the one who sits on the stairs waiting for him to come home. He’s as real as a stuffed animal can get. I let him hug Boonga for his portrait this year, which got a raised eyebrow from Dad, but I know that it won’t be long before he is getting dusty on the dresser, Toy Story playing out for real in just a few short years.
I lie there with him and smell his “boy” smell…one of my favorite quotes is from “Incendiary” by Chris Cleave, where the protagonist describes the smell of her boy as a “cross between angel and tiger.” I have never smelled either but can’t imagine a more perfect description of how my boy smells. The last of his Old Spice shower gel (used for the benefit of “the girls”) still lingering on his head. He flings his arm across my back and his tiny fingers feel like when they were a baby, grabbing on to the lifeline of Mom. We talk about his day, and when I ask him what the best part of his day was he says “Seeing you when I came out of school” and it does not feel like the world’s most obvious pick-up line. He smiles sleepily at me and leans over for a kiss.
I watch him as sleep takes over, as his eyes stop popping open to see if I’m still watching him, as his breathing slows and his arm gets heavy and slides off me. I see this boy, who knows the whole Bastille album, and always has his nose in a book. Who is afraid to ride his bike but not to sing “Hard Knock Life” for Annie auditions. With his skinny, knobby legs and tiny teeth that refuse to loosen even a little bit. His skipping around on the soccer field and sometimes powerful shot on goal (when he feels so inclined). The way he loves his sisters and how they look out for him. Someday there won’t be any room for me on this little bed, when he fills the hollow made by his teenage dad, sprawling out across a too-small twin bed. So I get in all the snuggles that I can, with this boy and his eyelashes like spiders’ legs, my own little angel/tiger.