A few nights ago I was putting Marlo to bed—this is how it goes these days, and it’s different from even six months ago: I have her tell Leta goodnight, and she usually does this either in the most adorable or the most annoying way possible. Usually the latter, and usually by hanging her entire body from Leta’s neck while trying to litter Leta’s face with kisses. I used to do something similar to my older sister who is also five years older than I am, and the fact that she didn’t knock me to the ground and stick her foot on my face (Leta shows similar restraint) makes her worthy of some sort of sainthood. September, had you ever come after me with a bat for all the ways I purposefully tried to annoy you I would not only forgive you now, I’d bring you a casserole.
Although, I think Marlo does this to Leta for the same reasons I did it to my sister. Which are, “Please love me and acknowledge me and appreciate me because I think you are pretty much the most amazing thing in my life.” No pressure, big sisters! You’re only responsible for the mental stability of a boiling nuclear reactor, is all!
Then we head downstairs to the bathroom that she shares with me in the basement where she brushes her teeth while I braid her hair. Did we forget her pajamas? Nope. Because she has taken to sleeping in her clothing lately—she specifically asks me if she can just sleep in what she is wearing and this is one instance when my hardass Southern parenting was like, “Um, Heather? You do this every night. You are modeling this behavior.” Yeah, except that I’m usually in super comfy yoga pants that double as pajama pants anyway, so I always answer, “You want to sleep in your own stink, fine by me, kid.” Turns out she wants this. Whatever. You do you, hobo.
Then we head to her bedroom, climb under the covers, and she reads to herself for 20-30 minutes. I used to read to her but that suddenly stopped about a year ago when she realized she could read faster and with better-sounding voices than I could. God! It only took eight years of me purposefully reading as monotonously as possible to get out of that gig! Unfortunately, this means she has inherited one of my most dominant genes with the scientific name of Last One In The Room To Know They Are Being Swindled.
She’s been reading a book called Wonder which I guess they made into a movie—I’m supposed to be up on all this shit except I am busy raising two kids by myself, working full time and making sure that assholes around Salt Lake City stop dethroning me from my mayorships:
What’s good, Jeff.
Yeah, that’s not going to make any sense to someone who hasn’t ever used Foursquare or Swarm but I don’t care. There are a few pleasures in my life that I will not ever spend an ounce of energy defending: my mayorships, the person I pay to clean my house, the person I pay to shellac my nails (hi, Lori!), and Corn Nuts. Oh, you know what else? SLEEPING IN MY YOGA PANTS.
She began the book before winter break and resumed it when she got back from spending time with her father over the holiday, and then the other night she suddenly asked if she could stop reading and go to bed. Like, ten minutes earlier than usual. I told her of course, and after I turned off the lamp beside her bed she burrowed her whole body right inside my chest and began whimpering. I pulled her closer into my arms and asked her what was wrong.
“I just got to the part where the dog is starting to die,” she sobbed.
“I haven’t read this book. There’s a dog who dies?” I asked. She nodded, and I wiped the tear from her right eye. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m so sorry he’s dying.” This reminded me that I never finished the book report I was writing for Charlotte’s Web, the one way back when I was reading out loud to Marlo every night and wondering if she was paying attention at all. I genuinely thought she wasn’t listening to a single word I was reading, not one word, and was instead using that time to plot exactly how she was going to climb out of her window at night to meet up with friends and walk around mooning random people at stop signs.
But when we got to the part where it’s pretty clear that Charlotte is about to die Marlo started weeping with her whole body and begged, “Please don’t let her die!” through her sobs. I did a very bad job holding it together right then what with being hit with the realization that she had very much been paying attention, and the feeling of wanting to comfort her completely overwhelmed me. So I put the book down, pulled her into my arms and cried along with her.
“I don’t want her to die, either,” I whispered into the tiny hairs of her ear.
And then that night like every other night that I have put her to bed I sang her our four songs: “Twinkle,Twinkle Little Star,” “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “Little Drummer Boy,” and “You Are My Sunshine.” It took me a few years (meaning a FULL FUCKING EIGHT YEARS) to finally get the, “So please don’t take my sunshine away,” line right. I always got the rhythm of it messed up, so when I finally did sing it the way it’s supposed to be sung she sat up in bed as if she’d heard a gun go off and said, “Well, look at you! I knew this day would come!”
Anyway, yesterday someone sent me this video, and before I say anything about it you really, really need to see it:
The first time I saw this I had to stop it at 3:09 and compose myself so that I could finish watching it. Marlo has been my barnacle for the majority of her life. Whenever we’re together she has some part of her body touching mine, and often when we are relaxing on the couch she either puts her whole body into my lap or drapes her legs over my own. That video feels like an interpretive dance of the dynamic I have always had with that kid, and I can feel her growing and swimming away from me and only a mother can understand me when I say that this is totally devastating.