Posted by: alegra22 | May 25, 2011


There has been a dull ache snaking along the inside of my skull for the past few days. “It’s the way you sit at the computer,” Dan says. He hunches his shoulders, his hands poised in the air like a praying mantis. He wiggles his fingers. The imitation is unflattering. He’s been saying this to me for years. I ignore him and make an extra point to shuffle my feet as I walk away. Obstinance is one of my favorite forms of flirtation.

Sol follows me into the bedroom. His movements have a high energy tension, a sinewy agitation that makes the pain beneath my skull seep into my mind. I climb beneath the blankets and slow my breathing. Every night, Sol and Zaviera climb into our bed while Dan puts Joaquin to sleep. We read a story or have a little talk and then I pray. My prayers are reviews of the day. I thank God for the ways that my children are learning and growing. I can feel my children’s anticipation when their names are spoken out loud. Their toes curl against my skin, their grip tightens, they wiggle a little bit closer as I list the things they have done, the ways in which they make me proud. I turn out the lights and I hum Brahm’s lullabye for as long as it takes.  Once they are asleep, I slip out from beneath their arms and legs and I return to Dan. Later, we carry them to their beds. At some point before dawn, Zaviera usually comes padding back into the room, lifting my arm, slipping in beneath the covers, her hand cradling my face, claiming her rightful place curled in the curve of my body.  

Tonight, it is just Sol. He is wound up from his routine being disturbed. Dan took him to help out with the boys’ basketball team he is coaching. “Mommy,” he says, flicking the bed with his index finger – thunk, thunk, thunk – “can you pat my back?” – thunk, thunk, thunk. He rubs his feet on the sheets. He plumps up his pillows. Flops from side to side. Tucks the sheets tightly in around his sides. Decides he’s too hot. Tells me his bones are aching. Remembers he has to pee. Informs me that he wants me to take the large beast of a dresser in our bedroom back to the store and exchange it for a different one. “You have the receipt, right? I want you to take it back and get one that goes right down to the floor.” His hands come out from beneath the sheets as he demonstrates what he means by the dresser meeting the floor. “I want you to do that tomorrow.”

“Sol, we can’t do that. Daddy and I like our dresser. Is this so Ginger can’t hide beneath it?”

“Yes,” he nods, shoving his hands back down beneath the blankets. Thunk, thunk, thunk.

I think she goes there to have a break. Just like you go to your room to get a break from Zaviera, Daddy, and Joaquin sometimes.”

“And you,” Sol says, solemnly. “And it’s not so I can get a break. I go in there to draw or to play or because I’m given ‘minutes’ or because I’m grumpy. I don’t go in there for a break.”

“Okay, then, the kitty is going beneath the dresser because she’s grumpy.”

“Why do you keep calling Ginger ‘she’?” Before I can answer him that it’s because Ginger is a female, he comes up with his own solution. “Oh, I know. It’s because you’re a girl. So you think everything is a girl. But you’re wrong.”


Thunk, thunk, thunk.

“I want you to take it back tomorrow. I don’t want her going where I can’t get her.”

Thunk, thunk, thunk.

“Sol, you need to stop flicking the bed and fidgeting. It’s time to go to sleep.” I say it a little too sharply. My headache creeps down into my heart. An ugly weight. I reach over and turn out the light. He rolls on to his side and motions for me to pat his back. He flicks the bed a few more times and then stills himself.

 My hand cups the outline of his shoulder blade as I begin the slow rhythm that settles his mind. I feel his ribs  beneath the tips of my fingers. His skin seems so thin and tight across his bones. There is so little insulating him from the world. I worry about this. I  begin to hum. The notes wear away at my insides, night after night, like a river moving over stone, carving me out, changing me.

I stop, my fingers spreading between his ribs.

“Sol,” I whisper. “I’m sorry I got grumpy with you. I’m just really tired and my head hurts.”

“It’s okay,” he whispers back and sighs. “Can you keep patting my back?”

I begin again. The slow, steady rhythm. The notes moving through my body, breaking in the air. Night after night, I am shaped by this rhythm. Night after night, I put my children to sleep with prayers and impatience and the imperfection of my lullabye. I feel the tension ease from his body. He breathes deeply. I lean over and kiss him goodnight. In the quiet and calm, I always wish I could be more for them during the noise and chaos and competing demands. 

I walk out to the living room and lay down, resting my feet on Dan’s lap. Joaquin is asleep next to us. Dan begins to work away at my soles, finding the points that hurt and pressing gently. He does this almost every night. Without asking, without expecting anything in return, he tends to the tension in my body. Every night, I am grateful.

We watch Parenthood and discuss Max, the young boy who has Aspergers.  When Max steals a ball of rubber bands, explaining in a logical manner that he wasn’t told  ‘not to take the ball – he was only told to ask if it was okay’ we laugh. We recognize Sol in that line of reasoning.  The episode continues on, another child in the family is taken to be ‘diagnosed’ because the mother fears her daughter is showing signs of Aspergers. The daughter turns out to be ‘gifted’ and simply ‘bored’ as opposed to Max, who has ‘an issue.’

I say to Dan, “I don’t get that at all. I always think of Sol as being the gifted one.”

Dan presses gently into the arch of my foot and says, “Yeah, me too.”



  1. Sol is most definitely gifted. You’ve posted many of his words of wisdom and insight throughout the past few years and I still firmly believe that they should be tucked into a book so they can be remembered and shared.

    I really like your version of bedtime prayers and am thinking that I might modify it to fit our family, since Victoria loves her loft bed and hops right into it at bedtime. Maybe once I have Logan I’ll be trim enough to climb up in there with her like I used to when we’d read together. (Now we curl up on the couch.)

    One thing I worry about, and Nick has helped me with, is my patience levels. Having gone from being mainly around adults to having a child has taught me that I need to work on my patience. Yes, V and D are older but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll be on the page we’re supposed to be on. I’ve gone from needing order to learning how to cope with, and even sometimes embrace the chaos. I only hope that if migraines return and I have a crappy day at work and everything’s closing in that I can find the calm and grace like you have because I don’t want to be the mom that they have to watch out for. I want to be able to apologize for my shortcomings and let them know that I love them no matter what and they’re my priority.

  2. …that’s because he is…..

  3. I love the idea of thanking God for the ways that your children succeed every day. What an amazing blessing for them to hear that.

  4. i’m another one who loves your prayer routine. i’m tucking your beautiful images inside myself today, like a seed.

  5. This made me cry. I’m sending it to my friend Sarah. (Be prepared for that 🙂

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