Children, Things I Can

27. Things I Can Provide: Light, Touch

Look at me, dancing my little dance for a few moments against the background of eternity.

– Sarah Manguso, Ongoingness: The End of a Diary

His dad opens the door and leads me in. I step out of my shoes and climb the stairs. In the bathroom, our son is tucked into a lumpy cloud of pillows and blankets. His eyelids are tinged green. “Hi mom.” It’s his Eeyore voice. He takes his time peeling himself from the heap. Leaning his body into mine, Bug wraps his arms around my middle. He sighs.

“I’m sorry you’re feeling yucky,” I say. His hair is stuck to his temples and neck. I stroke his skin and for once, he doesn’t stop me. He pulls back and looks at me with eyes far too big. He tells me he was sweating and then shivering, and that he sort of slept while watching a Harry Potter movie.

“Do you want to go to your other house and maybe make a nest on the bathroom floor there?”

“No,” he says. He gets all the way up now and presses into my arms again.

“Maybe just go home and read together?”


He plods out of the bathroom and down the stairs. Tee collects the backpack, the uneaten lunch, the unfinished homework. We step out together into a startling shaft of afternoon sun. When did spring decide to come out of hibernation? My desk at work is angled away from the window. An awakening can stroll all the way to its fullness and recede again without my notice. If I remember to resurface when I clock out, I might catch the last of its halo disappearing into the horizon.

The air fringing the sidewalk is so light and gentle it makes my chest throb. Only so many days like these ever happen in a season. In a chapter. In a lifetime. This is one of the truths that resolves into view at the rate of decades. The reward for a long life is the biting grasp of life’s brevity.

At home, the dog yips and babbles as we tumble inside. “Let’s open the balcony door,” I tell Bug. “We can put the blankets there. Right where you can be in the sun.”

Bug shrugs. “Okay,” he says. “Can I have tea?”

After walking Noodle, I dig around for the King Arthur picture book. Bug and I settle into cushions and pull a blanket around us. Leaning into my body, he alternates between sparkly water and hot tea. At our feet, the dog sprawls out under the current of evening air that cools my son’s fevered skin.


5 thoughts on “27. Things I Can Provide: Light, Touch”

    1. It’s funny you put it that way. I actually feel much more helpless as a working mom who can’t make it back in time for the school performance or PTA meeting. Just being a soft place for my sick kid feels like a much clearer role. The ideal – being around and actively engaged while he’s actually healthy and thriving – is frustratingly hard to achieve.

      1. Good point. I remember when the girls were all in school and I was a single working mom. Damn that was hard and more often than not I failed in that respect.

  1. When my daughter is feeling a bit off, she asks me for just that – light touch. Hope your household rallies soon, or has already rallied.

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