It’s quiet. Aidan is in bed. Reagan is working at the desk. I stand up from the couch to take my empty mug into the kitchen tripping over a stray ball that has clearly wandered from its basket. Regaining my balance, I deposit my dish in the kitchen and move to the bathroom, my original goal for disrupting the exhaustion-induced coma I’d been enjoying a moment before.
Still not fully aware of my surroundings, I am surprised when my hand encounters a small truck, lined up with precision along the corner of the stool, instead of the tissue I’d been searching for. I laugh. Aidan.
Even while he sleeps, his presence permeates the house. I stop to think about it for a minute, sighing, knowing that one day I will miss this. I will miss his littleness. I grab my camera and start walking.
I find the multi-story airplane hanger Aidan and Grandpa Frank built earlier in the day. Matching planes—one little, one big—just like the two boys playing with them--are tucked inside.
Farther beyond, the Christmas tree is still surrounded by wrapped presents, although on this eve of December 27 Christmas has already come and gone. Each present has been a delight for Aidan. He opens one and immediately starts using it. Suggestions to continue opening more presents are met with loud protests or flat out refusal. He just wants to enjoy what he has right now. We’ll make it through all of them eventually. I appreciate the generosity of family and friends but right now, in this moment, I am thankful that my son is so content to be. To play. To truly embrace a gift instead of glancing at it and tossing it aside for whatever is coming next. I imagine that Christmas will be a different story next year so I savor this for a moment and then continue my stroll.
Piles have accumulated on the dining room table. Aidan’s yellow sun hat rests below the child-sized Santa hat he has been sporting off and on for the past few days. A bag full of tropical ocean figurines sits on the edge, abandoned there after a Skype call with the Baxters. Aidan was so excited that he and the girls all have fish and scuba divers now.
Model dinosaurs join us for meals. A spot-on gift from Auntie Bean and Co., Aidan can’t get enough of Tyrannosaurus Rex roaring or Triceratops stomping (not pictured). Thanks to PBS’s Dinosaur Train, Aidan can list off an impressive number of dinosaurs and their notable features when he is in the mood to share such information with me. Which isn’t always.
Books are everywhere. He loves reading cuddled up on the couch most of all. The loft reading nook in his bedroom is a close second. He is showing all the signs of a budding reader. His interests are varied. Soon we will step into the magical world of chapter books. While I have encouraged a love of reading from the very beginning, my heart gets all pitter-pattery when I think of what literary adventures are coming next.
I find vehicles and musical instruments in the bathrooms. Objects no doubt carried in, clutched in a tiny hand, to be held while he goes potty or brushes his teeth, only to be abandoned when a more enticing distraction takes the reins. Sometimes they get cleaned up. Sometimes they sit there, little forgotten treasures, to be rediscovered later.
Walking on, I find pieces of toys tucked into corners of the hallway and my bedroom. A Lego from an earlier project sits, waiting to be reunited with the rest of the set; a train track piece and a hammer, used together to help a stubborn piece set into place, also forgotten when the baskets were refilled. Some nights I am surprised by books or bath toys that have somehow migrated from their rightful places to the covers on my bed. Little treasures layered between sheets and blankets, no doubt during a boisterous game of hide-and-go-seek. It elicits a smile every time. A reminder that my son was here, playing, enjoying life, in a place he finds safe and comforting.
The candles on the bathtub ledge share space with wind-up water toys and other little boy bathing paraphernalia. He has his own bathtub but there is something magical about Mama and Daddy’s space. I wonder when he will be too big for us to take baths together. He is not aware of anatomy differences in any meaningful way yet. He enjoys making bubble beards, hanging foam letter ornaments on his make-believe Christmas tree, and motoring his submarine through the deep cave created by my or Reagan’s bent knees. He’s playful and lovable and happy. I love being happy with him.
And then here, my final destination. A place I come to every night before retreating to my own bedroom.
Aidan’s days are filled with imagination. His nights are too. The hallway light is on, his door open wide—our compromise in an ongoing challenge to get him to fall asleep on his own when he would rather cling to us claiming he is “sca-wood.” Mike and Sully, lovingly painted by Auntie Em, guard the entrance to his bed. An array of stuffed animals stand at the ready if he needs them. His bedtime books rest on the floor, waiting to be put away or paged through in the morning.
And he sleeps. The deep, restful sleep of a contented, thoroughly exhausted child, recharging for another day of exploration. I can hear his little boy snores, muffled by the blanket, and see his long eyelashes resting gently against his sun-kissed cheeks. I end every day like this, standing or kneeling by his bed, just watching him sleep. No matter how hard the days has been or how ready I was for him to just-go-to-bed-already a few hours earlier, I am overcome by the urge to crawl in bed alongside him and snuggle in. To hold him tight, kiss his head, and just cherish these quiet moments, these crazy days.
A little boy lives here. A little boy who is loved so very, very much.