The mother sighed. “This is such a long book,” she said and then, noticing the disappointment on her daughter’s face, the mother realized the wisdom in the gift of time.
She stretched her own feet into the flannel sheets, all decorated in pink and purple and green flowers, then pulled the white blanket and quilt up to their noses. The little girl laughed. They snuggled in close enough to touch, no space between.
The mother pulled back the book cover and took her time with the words.
And that other sound —
not the beating of your heart,
but the one like half a whisper —
is the sound of growing ferns…
And later: “…you awaken to an unaccustomed light…” And the ending: “Where do hummingbirds go in a hurricane?”
And when the book ended, the mother flicked off the sparkly pink bedside lamp and turned her face until it touched nose-to-nose with her daughter. It had been a cold weekend, full of sickness and staying-in. Now, the daughter smiled – maybe to have the mother set in close, maybe to feel well again and without fever. And the mother smiled because she felt it too.
The baby was already asleep in his bed in the next room over. The mother air-kissed the little girl goodnight as she walked down the hall to the oldest boy’s room. Still naked on the floor from a bath half-an-hour earlier, the mother tsk-tsked her dreamy son.
“I can’t lay with you tonight,” she said.
“Wait!” He rushed to the dresser, slammed open a drawer and extricated flannel pajamas in blue and yellow. Pulling them on, the mother confirmed the toilet hadn’t been flushed nor hands washed. “I’m going!” He ran as if in a race and the mother couldn’t hide a small smile. Of course I’ll stay, she admitted in her head, understanding the gift of a little alone-time in the early evening.
Under the covers of another bed, the boy asked for Rabbi Harvey, but the mother shook her head.
“Why not? He’s so funny,” the boy pleaded.
“I think it’s dumb,” the mother said.
“Maybe you just don’t understand it,” he challenged and she had to laugh.
“The Little Prince, then?” he asked, handing her the royal-blue translation of the book she read in high school. “Yes,” the mother said.
Settling against the pillows, she opened the book that the boy could read by himself to the seventh chapter.
“What good are thorns?” the little prince asked the traveler. When the traveler lashes out, mired as he is in his own worries, the little prince pushes forward.
“If someone loves a flower of which just one example exists among all the millions and millions of stars, that’s enough to make him happy when he looks at the stars. He tells himself, ‘My flower’s up there somewhere…’ But if the sheep eats the flower, then for him it’s as if, suddenly, all the stars went out. And that isn’t important?”
The mother turned to the little boy, who had sidled his head under her arm and leaned on her lap, listening to the cadence of her voice.
“I love stories like these,” the mother remarked. “They’re full of metaphor. That’s when they seem to be about one thing but are really about another.”
The little boy couldn’t care less for this line of conversation but he listened anyway.
“This is really about love,” the mother said. “You’ll understand some day.”
That night, the children fell asleep without complaint. The mother stayed up until midnight working by the light of a Tiffany lamp in her corner office. The blue of the book covers, which she carried under her arm downstairs to hearten her mad race against the clock, match the soothing blue of her office walls.
Wondering why she always raced through all the many tasks of the day. Wondering why she rushed bedtime, that sweet quietening down time at the end of each day, when she can perfectly inhale the scent of her lovely little ones. Wondering why she couldn’t catch her breath when all was well, all was good, and she was so incredibly fortunate.
Someday, she told herself, you’ll understand everything.