Posted by: alegra22 | September 6, 2010

small bodies

the lion and the lamb

Lean, tangled shadows dance across the window, emerging out of the edge of the faded drapes. My view of the  night is hidden behind the glare of a street lamp on the glass, blurred by the constant movement of my children as they tuck and tumble, snuggle and fidget, dive and emerge beneath the blankets. It is only our second week of this new bedtime ritual and I am surprised by the way they have grabbed hold of it, their minds bulldog tenacious, locked on with grinning, gapped teeth. They pile on the bed with books in their arms and plans.

 I’ve learned in the last week to splinter my mind, to read a story to Zaviera while carrying on a conversation with Sol. Two weeks ago, before the days and nights spent in Ward 53, my mind would not have divided itself, it would have shattered. But in the non-stop layer upon layer upon layer of noise (strangers laughing, gossiping in too-loud-voices as if the curtain separating us is made of brick, of miles; the yank from sleep over and over as baby after baby coughs, cries, gasps and I roll toward  Dan asking, “Is that Joaquin?” “No babe, go back to sleep”) that surrounded us day and night during our week in the hospital, I changed. I learned to divide, multiply, subtract the information that swirled and clashed and screamed and banged up against the curtains of our small world as we watched and waited and prayed.

I close the last book and Zaviera sits upright, hair wild, lashes long. “Now we tell you things,” she says, smiling with plump cheeks and hot chocolate breath. I am surprised. There is no backing out. No lazy retreat into forgetfulness. My children know what they want. In just a week, they know their place on either side of me. They know that we light the candle, we read books, we turn out the light, we discuss the day, we say our prayers, they fall asleep cuddled up on either side of me and later, daddy will carry them to bed.

They have begun to take turns, Zaviera defers to Sol (No, no, no, no! she declares. It’s brother’s turn). Sol rolls over on his back, lacing his fingers across his chest, “Yes, mommy, I’d like to start. There’s a lot of things I have to talk about. Well,” he says, “well…let me see…well, for starts I need to talk about how I didn’t do very much nice things for my friends today. And certain things were terribly bore.” “You mean you didn’t do very many nice things? You mean certain things were terribly boring?” “Yes, exactly. Certain things were terribly boring and I didn’t like them at all.”

And so it begins. Zaviera reaches for the light, pauses, waits for me to nod approval. She gives me the thumbs up. Click. The light goes out. The candle casts shadows across the wall. They crouch above us on the ceiling. Sol’s words bump up against one another. He talks as if he is in one of those collapsing rooms, the walls moving toward him and the only way he can stop them is to fill up the space with all of his thoughts.

The smell of jasmine drifts through the room. Zaviera begins to fidget. She oozes off the side of the bed. I yank her back up.

“And then,” Sol says. And then, and then, and then. Zaviera smashes her nose into my cheek. She giggles. Pulls at my eyelashes. Steals a bracelet from my wrist. Sol’s stories wash over us. His little professor tone begins to build a buzz in my brain as Zaviera slides toward the edge again.

“Okay,” I say, too sharply. I try again. Softer. “Okay, Zaviera’s turn.”

I ask Zaviera to tell me one thing that made her happy today, one thing that made her sad, one helpful thing she did. I pull my mind back from the things I need to do, the lists, the conversations that don’t involve this moment, right here, right now. Sol’s feet seek out mine beneath the covers. Zaviera slips her hand over my waist. As we drift off to sleep she whispers, “We’re the girls, aye, mommy…”

“Yes,” I tell her, “we’re the girls.”

This space carved out by my children, a warm cave of possibility, stories, dreams, discussions at the end of our day – it is one of the promises I made that night in Ward 53, surrounded by stained walls and rows of hand sanitizer and the beep beep beep of machines. Crouched in the corner, feeling the edges of my body retreat, I understood that it all begins and ends with this: small bodies, big conversations, the candlelight, the shadows. Family.



  1. Once again, Beautiful my love.

    • (((thank you mi amor)))

  2. I needed this, now. I have fought myself the past few days, knowing there are obligations I must meet, deadlines passed, projects waiting, but instead I have snuggled with my son these past few days, listened and talked with him, watched movies and read books. And I refuse to feel guilty about that. I have put him first in these hours and will catch up soon.

    Beautiful, and relevant, Alegra. Thank you.

    • Yes, I understand. I really do.
      You will catch up. But we’ll never get to catch up on those moments with our children.
      Thinking of you xoox

  3. I second this. ❤

    • :o)

  4. breathless at the end of reading like always.

    I totally get this: especially with my eldest who talks similarly–to make the world, to meet it, to be in it.

    I love that line about your mind dividing… about learning how to do this.
    You are magic.

    • I often find myself in awe and overwhelmed with my eldest and his mind! It is like his words become a stampede and there is a power and a sorty of basic terror at being trampled beneath his gathering thoughts.

  5. thank you! As Dei has gotten older the snuggles have faded to finding each others feet as we fall asleep. At least she still sleeps with me, though that is about to end as she has her newly updated almost a teenager room completed…

    • aaawww…I hope that Zaviera is still cuddling with me into her teenage years. I don’t think a night goes by (or a cuddle) where a small part of my brain thinks of the days when their bodies have grown and they no longer gather to me for warmth & comfort the way they do now!

  6. I simply love your posts.

    • :o) xxxx

  7. I can’t help it… your blogs make me cry.

    • xoxoxo

  8. Alegra,

    Love it! There’s nothing quite like having your son and daughter on either side of you as you end the day with giggles. When you get a chance, send me your email address. I am no longer on FB. Hope all is well on your side of the world. I am sending you and your family good thoughts and prayers from Virginia.

    • Email sent! So good to hear from you.

  9. Ahhhh….that is the perfect way to end a day! It does begin here, with the small moments of quality time, built one upon another. You put it so well.

    Hugs to the gang!

  10. Truly gorgeous! Much love to you and the clan

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