One son successfully sent off to school (awakened, toileted, dressed, hugged, breakfasted, lunch packed, homework checked, jacket bundled, bus met, kissed, waved) I head into the boys' room to wake the next, start it all over again, when I remember just in time... election day; public schools closed.
I stop myself with my hand outstretched, pull back.
A wan light is all that seeps into this small back room, originally designated for the maids, brick walled courtyards deemed a sufficient view for those of their station.
It works for our boys, cocooning them from the sounds of New York City that pour, raucous, into the front rooms of our apartment.
Ethan has wrapped himself up pupae-like in his fuzzy blue blanket, the only parts protruding being his head and right arm at the top, one bare foot at the bottom. His arm is draped across his forehead, warding off what creatures of dreams I know not.
I sigh, spend a moment breathing in my son, indulging in one of the great secret pleasures of this mothering life: watching my children sleep.
Nine year-old Ethan has become wary of his mother's lingering eye in wakefulness. "Why are you staring at me, what are you looking at?" he'll ask if my glance overstays. Worried there is scrutiny, judgment. He accepts, skeptically, when I state the mostly true: "Nothing, I just love looking at you."
But while he sleeps, I can feast to my hearts content upon his sweet features that nascent adolescence and testosterone soon will transform.
Like the witch mothers in the Harry Potter books we are reading together, I wish for a magic wand with which to ward off all the hurtful things that may befall my son, making his way across the treacherous waters that lie ahead.
Wand-less, bereft of all but the ordinary magic of mother-love, I make my silent incantations anyway: "Let his heart not be badly broken by the first girl he hands it to; let him find joy in the doings of life and not just the achievement of the brass rings, but may he snatch his fair share of those as well, please."
He breathes in, out.
And I breathe with him, remembering the time I once breathed for him and his brother, when they resided inside me, and I stood in this room expectantly, attempting to conjure their faces from my dreams.
Envying my son the deliciousness of sleeping in, I slip out of his room.
A sink full of dirty dishes beckons.
The tower of boxes, emptied of mittens, fleece and parkas; now filled with summer - tank tops and shorts, sun bleached bathing suits and salt scented beach towels - are impatiently waiting to be carried back to the basement.
But first these words buzzing 'round my head must find purchase. I side-step past the detritus of Jacob's morning, approach the computer.
A few stolen minutes.
Mine to just write.
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