Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Leaving Time

I pulled the covers up around her shoulders and smoothed the hair from her forehead.  "Cricket, you know I love you, right?  I love you so much, and I'm going to miss you."
"I'll miss you too," she said softly.
"But I'll write you letters, okay, sweetie?" I forced my voice to be cheerful, despite the tears gathering behind my eyes.  "And you can write me back.  And I'll come visit, too!"
She paused, in thought.  "But...I can't come visit you, right?"
"No, probably not, lovey.  That would be really hard."
"I love you, my sweet.  Sleep tight."
"I love you too!"

I shut the door softly, and tiptoed downstairs.  A minute later, I heard the wail begin.  I flew up to her room and was on her bed in a moment, wiping her sweaty bangs out of her eyes and gently swiping at the tears.  "Baby, what's wrong?  What's the matter?"
She hiccuped.  "I don't want you to leave."
"You didn't want me to leave your room until you were asleep?"
"No," she said, the tears welling afresh.  "I don't want you to leave."
"Oh, baby."  I tried to breathe.  "Oh, sweet baby girl.  Cricket, I don't want to leave you.  I will always love you.  Always.  Close your eyes, baby.  I'll stay here until you're asleep, okay?"
She nodded and sighed, her heavy eyelids already closing.  The wind gently pushed the shade away from the window frame and a sliver of gray light shone into the room for a moment before it blew closed again.  One kick, then two, and her hand reached out and wrapped itself around my wrist as she sighed one last time and then, just like that, she was asleep.

I stayed for a few more minutes, even though she was dead to the world.  So poised and silly and sharp and funny when she is awake, asleep, her face is the picture of peace.  Finally, her restless, jumpy pace is quieted and her features soften.  I think for a moment about all the people in her life who will watch her sleep.  Her parents, yes, and me, but also lovers and partners years from now.  Fiercely, I want to protect her from everything and everyone that will hurt her.  I want all her hurts to be soothed by someone sitting and holding her hand until she falls asleep.  I want every morning to hold the promise of a fresh day for her, and for the pains and troubles of the day before to be left behind as easily as the foggy remnants of the dreams she never remembers.  But more than anything, I want to not be the first person who will hurt her.  To not be the very first memory she has of someone leaving her.

Cricket will have another nanny.  Someone who loves her, I am sure.  But I tell her, gathering her into my arms and holding her close, even when she squirms to get away, "Nobody loves you like I do.  Nobody ever will."  She tells me she loves me too, plants a kiss on my cheek, leaps up and runs away.  Run back, baby.  Stay in my lap just a moment longer.  Kiss me one more time.  Because I'm going to miss you more than you know.  More than I ever could have imagined.

I'm so sorry that I'm leaving, that I'm hurting you.  I'm so, so sorry.

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