This morning, as you well know, was idyllic. The day was productive and unusually fun. The late afternoon was spent napping. Then there were a couple of hours fighting my inner grouch. The early evening thankfully restored my good spirits.
But this night was a gift from God…
We left my parent’s house later than usual, as my beloved Aunt Bea is visiting. I could linger in her company until the wee hours of the morning, but Mr. Gore somehow managed to drag me away at 10:00, and not surprisingly, Gideon was asleep before we were halfway home. Rebekah, however, sat quietly in her carseat all the way to town, and as Chris ran into my brother’s house to pick up a gallon of milk, I turned around to my daughter and whispered “Do you want to sit with Mama?”
We are normally seatbelt and carseat fanatics, but…we only had to drive up the hill before we were home…and she looked so sweet and sleepy…and so when she nodded an affirmation, eyes glittering at me from the backseat, I quickly unbuckled her and hefted her into my lap. She straddled my mountainous stomach and laid her head on my chest just as Chris returned to the van.
Our drive uphill was something akin to heaven…the van was gently bouncing, carrying my imagination to some covered wagon in the Wild West, my sweet baby girl tucked safely into my arms as we made our journey home. She fit so perfectly against me, and as we passed the last row of houses before turning onto Main Street, I thought to myself…
“How I wish I could always hold her so safely and perfectly in my keeping!”
I already know all too well that in just a year’s time, she will begin outgrowing me, her limbs hanging off of me like her brother’s do now. But not so tonight.
Mr. Gore pulled into our driveway, opened my door and then Gideon’s, and carried our sleeping son away and up to his room, where sleeping children belong. I, however, was frozen. I couldn’t yet bear to bring this moment to an end!
The gentle night’s breeze, carrying with it the unmistakable scent of honeysuckle, ruffled Rebekah’s strawberry blonde hair, and I glanced down to see that she was still awake, her mouth gaping open in a daze of sleepiness. Her keen eyes, however, were as active as ever, taking in the sights before her. Our newly constructed gate creaked in the background, beckoning to the two of us to come home and call it a night, but neither mother nor daughter was apparently eager to go…
“Do you want to go inside?” I asked. She shook her head against my chest and said a quiet, but firm “No.”
“Don’t you want Papa to carry you to bed? Go night night?” I asked. She shook her head, a bit more vehemently this time and simply said again “No.”
When Chris came back outside to find his missing family and carry her to her crib, she did a surprising thing and turned away from him to cling to me. Miss Sunday, when it comes to choosing between her parents, is usually a Papa’s girl through and through; she is also a bit independent and rarely cuddles for long or delays bedtime. I jumped at this rare opportunity. “We’re coming…” I whispered to Chris, and as he walked away, I held my treasure even tighter, stroking her hair and tucking it repeatedly behind her ear while gazing at her soft, chubby face in the side mirror.
I don’t know how long we sat there, enjoying one another and the stillness of the night around us. But even in my state of euphoria, I knew we could not very well sit in the car forever. Finally, I reluctantly stood up, laying her head back down against me and carried my sleepy baby girl up the sidewalk.
But before I walked into the house, I looked over and saw that welcoming row of rocking chairs on our tidy front porch…I couldn’t resist.
We sat down, the two of us, and began to rock. She cuddled deeper against me and I could feel her little hand gently pat me on the arm where it rested, just like she pats her baby dolls or Gideon’s head while they watch television. Such a nurturer, she is, and warmth and comfort flooded through my entire body at her sweet touch. It dawned on me all of a sudden what changes will be taking place in our home in the coming months. A new baby is due to arrive in the next weeks, and in the midst of all the late-night feedings and new baby doctor visits, Miss Sunday will be turning two years old. I have a sick feeling that when we get adjusted to all of these changes, I will look up to find that my Rebekah has grown by leaps and bounds. And that is when I truly began to cherish the gift of this night…
My heart turned to my Heavenly Father and I whispered a heartfelt “Thank you!” For isn’t it so true that moments like these cannot be planned? They are gifts, unexpected…and never, in my mind, coincidental.
She sat up and looked up at me, her face serious and so beautiful in the moonlight. “I love you” I said, cupping her chin in my hand. “I wove you…too.” she slowly replied, and then pointed at our pet bunny in the yard. “I see Peter Wabbit…eating…grass.” she said, stringing out her longest sentence to date. “Yes, he is!” I replied, laughingly, proud of her progress. She smiled in satisfaction and swiftly laid her head back down, nestling against me once more.
But apparently she wanted to chat just a little bit more…soon sitting back up, she patted my tummy. “Baby in there?” she asked. “Yes.” I replied and felt on the right side of my stomach where Rebekah’s baby sister was making her presence known. “Right there.” I said, moving her hand to rest where the movement was taking place. She stared at my stomach, transfixed, for much longer than I expected her to, watching, waiting, for what? I don’t know. I finally broke her concentration. “Do you love baby sister?” I asked. “Yes.” she said. “Are you ready to hold her?” I asked. “Yes.” she said, bobbing her head in approval. The she laid back down on my chest and we returned to the quiet of the evening.
“Sing me?” I soon heard that soft little voice ask from underneath my chin.
Gladly. Choosing an appropriate song to convey what my heart had been singing since she joined me in the front seat, I began to sing as I continued to rock…
You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray. You’ll never know dear, how much I love you…oh please don’t take my sunshine away.
My heart broke a little at that last line, thoughts of change and growth and time swirling around in my head. I sang it again. And when I looked down, I saw her eyelids flutter, her chest heave a great tired sigh and then…my baby girl was asleep. Her breathing grew deeper, her weight grew heavier, and I knew that our sweet time together had come to a close. I can’t recall the last time I rocked her to sleep, but I never would have guessed this morning that my ordinary evening would bring with it such a privilege.
Before carrying her inside, I breathed one last prayer of utter gratitude to a God who, just weeks before a new baby joins the family, allowed me to rock my Rebekah once more, uninterrupted, in my favorite chair.
For the last time? Say it ain’t so!