“I’ll get him,” I say, at dark-o’clock
in the morning, rolling slowly out of bed.
I am older now
than I once was, and my body sometimes
creaks like a tired house in a storm.
I walk the hall, avoiding the toys.
“Good morning, you,” I say, lifting Leo and burying
my face into his neck, his cheeks, smelling his warmth.
A one-year-old is still so close to their beginning
you can see their rings expanding, if you watch,
if you pay attention. He looks concerned.
“MaMA?” he asks. “MaMA?”
His voice is like the call of a baby bird. He emphasizes
the second syllable.
“She’s sleeping,” I whisper, kissing his cheek again.
“Let’s get brother.”
We walk the dark hall, Leo and I. We go
into my oldest son’s room. He sleeps spread out
on his bed, a lanky boy-man. Waking him, I
remember when it was only him. Time
is wind through the trees, a spirit you see
only when you do not look directly at it.
“Wake up,” I say, shaking the outline of him,
hills under a blanket.
“Five minutes?” his now-deep voice asks
from deep within a well.
“Five minutes,” I say, and walk out
We climb the stairs to heaven, to the place
my girls sleep. We climb the steep steps and
lean into Abra’s room.
“Good morning,” I say, and her eyes open. She
sheds sleep the way a baby duck shakes water
from itself. She smiles. She sits up. She
“Hi, Leo,” she says.
He waves, and the way he waves is by opening
and closing his hands, both of them, as if squeezing
away the night, or clutching
and clutching again,
each and every moment.
We walk into Lucy’s room and I put Leo on the bed.
He crawls towards her. She sighs and rolls over.
“Sleep good?” I ask. She nods.
“Leo,” she says, long and slow,
as if meeting him for the first
time, and he kisses her, and she laughs.
“Time to get up,” I say.
“Leave Leo here,” she says.
I always go to Sam last. He hates
going to bed. He hates
waking up. He progresses reluctantly.
I switch on the night, bringing day into
the room. “Sam-oh,” I call to him, over
that great distance. “Sam-oh.”
He is still as water. He sleeps in the depths, in some
other world, some other universe. My voice
comes to him as deep calls
to deep, travels the paths of comets, around
moons and between distant stars.
He is still so far away.
“I’m coming back,” I say. “You’d better
be up by then.”
When I think of these five lives,
and the sixth sleeping inside Mai, I realize
the massive nature of this calling.
Each child, a universe.
Each mind, a fresh field of snow.
The tracks we leave behind cannot
easily be smoothed over.
This can be a good thing
if we tread lightly.
10 Replies to “The Massive Nature of This Calling: Parent”
“the massive nature of this calling” yes.
I know you get it, Kelly.
What an amazing responsibility, huh, that we get to be the first voice they hear in the morning, that we can, to some degree, set the tone of the day?
This is very good. You should consider writing.
Thanks, John. I’ll keep that in mind, in case my day job doesn’t work out.
This is beautiful, Shawn. Thanks so much for sharing. I passed this along to my wife. She’ll want to print it out.
Your words have perfect flow. And the subject matter is so relevant. Thanks for breathing life into your thoughts and sharing them with the world.
Thank you, Iris.
Interestingly your morning ritual reminded me of the days long ago when my mom would wake me for school. I always wanted to stay under the covers for five more minutes, and would wait for her second call. I knew there would not be a third. Now mom lives with us. She is 91 and I am always awake at dark o’clock without being called, and so is she. Now it is my turn to get the juice and vitamins out for her. Life cycles aren’t always easy, but I’m grateful for them all, and especially this one.
That’s really beautiful, Betty.
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