The evening’s performance is Mozart and the beautiful old Fox Theater is filled with the sweet sounds of the violin and viola.
My son is in town for the weekend and has accompanied us to a night at the Symphony. Watching him from a row behind, seated beside his sister, I notice the way he closes his eyes when the music starts, a small smile playing around the corners of his mouth.
Something behind my ribs, deep in the center of me, aches. I know that look. I’ve seen it before.
Every mother looks at a grown child and sees the baby he or she was. My son is tall now, his hair is short and dark, his face is angular and shadowed by the stubble of his beard. But in my gaze, superimposed on his adult features, is the image of the sturdy little boy whose head was once covered with soft cottony curls.
For a moment, the little boy is mine to hold again.
From the moment each of my children were born, we ended each day in the dark. Rocking in the old chair that had been their great-great grandmother’s, I held them close and sang a series of songs. The order of the lullabies, one sung after another, never varied and I sang them so many years the tunes melded into one melody always accompanied by the soft creaking sound of the old rocking chair.
Each of my children had their own way of falling asleep. My firstborn fought it every step of the way. I could feel her surrender, finally softening in my arms and dropping into sleep. When I rocked my middle daughter she popped her thumb in her mouth and proceeded to fall asleep almost as soon as I started singing. My youngest, the baby, would lay in my arms silent and still but half-awake, through two loops of the singing before dropping off.
My son, the only boy in a house of sisters, had his own way. He would curl against me, his head - covered with with those soft curls - would rest against my arm. He would close his eyes and smile, luxuriating in the pleasure of the rhythm and the caress and the music. I would gaze down on his face, as I did with each of them, illuminated by light coming through the bedroom window.
Rocking those babies, everything - the burdens; the frustrations, the fatigue and the worry I’d carried with me all day - would fade, swept away on songs that mothers had been singing for ages.
Try as I might, I have not found anything that soothes me as much as soothing my children did. My life, without all the care and worry of parenting small children, should be easier now, But there are days when I would welcome the chance to sit down and hold a warm little body in my arms; a chance to sing and rock and relax.
I think about that as I steal glances at the man, my boy, who sits in a room filled with the sound of music. And I watch him smile.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org