Not entirely sure what time during the night or early morning it must be, I’m watching the tree’s branches gently waving their shadows through the slits of the shutters on the second floor of my parents Houston home. King Ranch and I have made a trip down here for the weekend with Little Foot and Thing One for a quick visit.
Half an hour or so ago, Little Foot woke up in a screaming fury. His teeth are at that terrible toddler torture stage that makes it impossible for him to completely escape the pain. Poor guy.
Now, I’m curled up in the very same bed that belonged to me as a young child while holding Little Foot in a little spoon position. My mom has set up this toddler bed in the guest room for him to sleep in while we’re here because frankly, he’s outgrown everything else. I am surprised to find that I still fit in this bed. I’m not stretched out by any means, but I fit nonetheless.
It’s a wooden bed with wooden railings along the sides and a built-in shelf that serves as a headboard. I’m very vaguely remembering that I had a stuffed beagle and several plastic dinosaurs set up on this shelf once upon a time. I’m also remembering that I had a Minnie Mouse comforter.
The very first dream I can remember having occurred when I was about 4 years old and sleeping in this very bed:
I was woken up by a terrible growl. I pushed the pink comforter down from my face with my feet and clutched the wooden railing of my bed. As I peered over the edge of the bed, suddenly, my view switched to omniscient, allowing me to watch myself from someone else’s point of view.
Nailed to the outside of my bed by his hands, was a growling and snarling monster with long, tangled, bright, orange hair. He had two horns that poked up crookedly from his head and bright yellow, angry (but also kind of googly and scared) eyes. From my outside point of view, I watched myself, wide-eyed, peeking over the edge of that wooden bed and becoming so frightened that I when I tried to shout, nothing came out.
Suddenly, a police car with flashing lights and screaming sirens came crashing through the wall by my bed. The wind blew my hair and the monster’s orange hair in the exact same way: chaotically. I fell back and reached for my stuffed beagle.
I smile and laugh a little. I remember that dream as if it happened last week when really, it’s been nearly three decades.
Three decades later and I’m holding my son in this very same bed beneath a blue blanket while my own mom, who nearly three decades ago comforted me in the middle of that orange monster night, is sleeping in her own bed downstairs. At least I hope she’s sleeping. The room we’re staying in right now is above theirs so I’m worried that Little Foot’s painful crying and my footsteps have woken her up. They probably have.
Little Foot grunts and with his eyes still closed, he reaches a hand back in search of mine. I place my index finger in his palm. He clutches it with his small fingers, pulls my hand against his chest and relaxes back into sleep. His curly hair is beneath my nose and smells like a mixture of citrus and spaghetti.
What must Little Foot be dreaming about?
It’s difficult to put into words how it feels to curl up in a bed with your child that your mom used to curl up in with you. This particular bed is one that I had while I was still so young – it’s what I had before I even started grade school. At that time, the world was what my parents taught me and what I started to explore for myself.
I’m wondering what my mom thought about on those nights that she stayed up with my brothers and I. I’m wondering if she can still remember what our hair smelled like beneath her nose. I’m wondering if she can remember any dreams that she had as a child and what it felt like for her mother to hold her. I’m wishing that she could hear my thoughts and come up the stairs so that all three of us could curl up together.
King Ranch and I have been through so much over the past year. This trip back to Houston is one that I think I needed because sometimes, when I’m scared, hurting, uncertain or just exhausted, all I want is to go home and be with my mom.
I think that there was a time when I was ashamed to admit that. As if I felt like I needed to be an adult. Face my problems. Become independent. Handle it myself.
Don’t get me wrong, those are all good and necessary things – to grow up. But I guess what I’m laying here thinking about is that it’s great to be successful, independent, and able to problem solve on your own while also being okay to, every once and awhile, feel the need to curl up with your mom because you just need to feel safe and secure.
Little Foot, I’m imagining, will never be too old to come home. I’ll never stop wondering if he’s sleeping well. I’ll never stop wondering what he dreams about. I’ll never stop being curious about what he must be feeling. I’ll certainly never forget what this Little Foot in a little spoon feels like in this little, wooden bed – his little breath rising and falling – while the shadows gently sway across the ceiling.
If I know my mom, which I feel like I do pretty well, I’m fairly certain that she’s lying awake in her bed downstairs debating on whether or not she should come up here to see if we need help with Little Foot. But in the end, I know she won’t come up here because we’re indeed adults and she knows that we need to be capable of solving rough nights with a teething toddler on our own.
So I’m just laying here smiling. I’m smiling because my kid is asleep again feeling safe in my arms. I’m smiling because I’ll be drifting off soon enough, feeling safe with my mom and dad in their bed down stairs. My mom, I hope, is smiling down there because of the irony that is her daughter awake with a restless, teething baby while probably imagining how insane it is that her own child has a child. And somewhere out in the universe, I imagine that my mom’s mom is pretty tickled that her daughter, her daughter’s daughter, and her daughter’s daughter’s son are all beneath the same roof.
I watch the swaying tree branch shadows on the ceiling. My mom is probably seeing something very similar on her ceiling. One day, Little Foot will remember the same on his ceiling. The wind will always blow the branches.
Some things, no matter how much time goes by, never change.