It Could Be the Last Time
He's heavy in my arms. My back strains to lift him into the air and onto my left hip where he's been perched since he was born. His right arm immediately snakes around to my back where he plays with my hair, rubs my back, or grasps tightly to my shirt. I breathe in deeply to smell the little boy scent on him. It's a mixture of sweat and grass - the perfect scent of a toddler. We walk and after awhile I struggle under the weight of him until it becomes too much and I have to put him down. I catch a glimpse of disappointment as I let go once his feet are solidly on the ground.
A few minutes later, he'll lift his arms high to me and I'll pick him back up. Repeating the process all day.
It's naptime and though I'm desperate for a nap myself and know that the quality of nap I'll get next to him is greatly reduced, I can't help myself. "Do you want to take a nap with me in my bed?" It's a rhetorical question at this point. He always says yes. We climb in my bed, snuggle underneath the fluffy gray comforter and lay on our sides, facing one another. We tell stories and jokes, he tries to stay up longer than he should until I grab him and pull him close to me, my right arm underneath his neck, supporting his head. I draw him closer to me draping my left arm over his toddler belly that isn't protruding the way it used to, the baby fat nearly gone. It's then that I feel his body relax, his eyes flutter close, and his breathing slows until he's asleep, right in the safety of my arms.
I don't dare move him for fear of waking him, and I try to get a quick nap in myself, throughout the squirms and kicks of an active toddlerhood nap.
"I want to sit on your lap, Mommy." We're at the restaurant waiting on our food. I tell him sure, but only until his food comes. He immediately climbs over resting his bony butt onto my lap, his suddenly long legs hanging down over mine. I wrap my arms around his waist and squeeze him tight, kissing the soft blond hair on his head.
"Let's go for a walk!" We walk down our dark driveway out into the quiet, tree-lined road. His tiny hand reaches up and grabs for mine. Whether out of habit because he knows he has to hold a hand in a street, or because he genuinely likes to hold my hand, he squeezes it tight as we walk. "I like holding your hand, Henry." "I like holding YOUR hand, Mommy." And we walk together, hand in hand up the hill towards the stop sign.
I am a human jungle gym for him. My body welcomes his, just as it did for the first nine months that he was forming. I don't know when he'll stop coming to me for comfort, or he won't want to hold my hand. I don't know when he'll be too heavy for me to pick up and hold. I don't know when he won't fit snugly in bed with me anymore. So until then, I'll pick him up, I'll hold his hand, I'll take a few bruises to the side while we nap. Because when those last times come, I want to be sure I have the memories of all of the times before stored up. To remember when he was my little boy and I was his world.