I am home late from BookClub and the house is dark and quiet. I’m not tired – good food and inspired conversation will do that to a person – and I quietly steal upstairs to brush my teeth and wash my face, and I grab a quilt to take back downstairs to the couch. I walk to the stairs, and a door opens a crack. And one of the most beautiful faces in the world peeks out at me.
Can’t sleep, Buddy?
No. I’m having terrible sleeps all the time. I hate the night.
I walk into his room and smooth the blankets on his top bunk. He climbs back up and sits on the bed, cross-legged in his jammies. Charlotte’s Web is playing on his cd player.
Is something bothering you?
Well … ya … He stumbles over the words he doesn’t really want to say, the fear of which he doesn’t want to admit.
Tell me what you’re thinking.
And out it pours. A rush of words and tears and fears. The flood hits me hard, full in my mother heart. I am drenched with his pain and I ache with the damp of it.
And the sum of it all, the fear he is wrestling hard in the alone dark, is death. Because children die all the time, don’t they? So why not me?
I am at a loss. Because he’s right. Children die all the time. Terrible happens. Even with all the prayers for those hedges of protection, even with the faith.
I think of the book I’d just come from discussing, the echo of it still in my ears. Sarah’s Key, by Tatiana de Rosnay. The story of a ten-year-old Jewish girl caught in the terrible Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup during WWII in France. The story none of us had ever heard before.
I think of the awful truth of the Canadian roundups. The Japanese into camps during the war, the First Nations children into residential schools.
I think of children living on streets, and in dumps, and in orphanages. And I know my boy’s heart. I know the overwhelming, heart-breaking, knee-buckling truth with which he wrestles.
I look into the teary face of my precious ten-year-old boy and I have no words. I have no bright and cheery answer. I nod my head slowly, and I hold his eyes with mine, and I say I know. It’s hard. There are many sad things that happen in the world. And sometimes all we can do is love and trust and hold each other’s hands when we are scared.
I gather him up, all arms and legs and scruffy hair and fast-beating heart. And I pick up his pillow and he takes his quilt, and we go down to the living room together. And we make the living room a living room, with the lights on and the couches cozy and a drink in his hand. And we watch The Fonz and Richie being silly for a while and laugh a little, and then we dim the lights and pray and sink deep into soft blankets.
And sleep comes.