I took a nap with Cass yesterday. I know these days are numbered. He turned five last month, and unless he’s beat, his naps are shorter than a wink. It’s that quick breath between real naps and the extended, full, busy afternoons of a kid. When experiences are more important than rest.
I fade in and out of sleep, my body recalling another time, when I only half-slept. Like I’ve slipped back into an afternoon four and a half years ago, when I curl up next to his warm body almost every day and my sheets smell like milk and sometimes I wonder where I stop and he begins. He stirs and I wake up to gently rub his tiny back to soothe him back to sleep. But he’s not tiny. The boy beside me doesn’t need help staying asleep.
I spend the rest of the nap staring, staring, staring. Memorizing, or trying to. Marveling.
I notice the placement of his moles–right where is adam’s apple will someday be, his creamy right cheek an inch from the corner of his lip, nestled just inside the side tuft of sandy blonde hair–like connect the dots. I wonder if he will have freckles like I do. Wisps of hair blowing in the fan breeze. The fine blonde hairs on his forearm, showing the scratch and bruise signs of summer. His dark, thick eyelashes that hint at darker hair to come.
The rise and fall of his chest, where his hand rests over his heart. His fingernails, dirty from digging for bugs this morning–in the dirt that nourishes the tree planted the same week he came home from the hospital. The way he still spontaneously smiles in his sleep, just like he did when he was a baby. I wonder what he is dreaming about.
I remember watching him like this then. For hours sometimes. Only then, so much of who he is now was still a mystery. The great shift starts. I can begin to see who he is and who he might become. And as exciting and joyful and pride-swelling that is… well, it’s also fraught with heartache. Sometimes when I think about how much he’s changing, I also think about how much I’ve changed. And I wonder who I’ll become.
Meghan McEwen is the founder of the travel blog Designtripper.