A story of a boy and his babies.

Every morning when I make my son’s bed, I find his babies asleep on the pillow next to him.

It always makes me smile; makes my heart sigh a deep sigh of contentment and if you’ll bear with me, I’ll tell you why, although as always, it might take a while to get to there. Those of you who know me well, also know that a cup of tea is a good thing to have by your side when I start telling a story.

Every night, before he snuggles into bed, and before he gets his three belly kisses—we started off with just one kiss, fluttery and as light as your breath on a cold, Winter’s day, but soon he asked for two, (I blame inflation), and now I have to kiss him three times every night, whilst counting out, ‘One kiss, mwah, two kisses, mwah, and three kisses, mwah!’ Every single night.  

Does he ever get tired of this? No.

Do I? Not even close.

I want to hold onto this so tightly, because I know that one day, I will put my lips on his boy-belly—on that very place where him and I were connected for 40 beautiful weeks, for the very last time, and then I shall wake up the next day, to no more belly kisses, perhaps not being prepared for this loss, this separation, the night before.

Isn’t that how it goes when we raise our babies? We yearn for the firsts, not fully realising that the last of anything, is what we should really be looking out for. They are the ones that take a little piece of your heart with them.

There is only ever one last of everything.

Sometimes this is a good thing, I know, a blessed relief, but not always.

I mourn so very many lasts.

But wait, back to my boy and his five little loves. Once he is finally tucked up in bed, and this takes quite a long time, as he is a night-owl and his entire being comes to life when the moon hangs her full body high in the sky—something that he gets from me, so I cannot complain, you know—anyway, only then will he put his babies to bed.

He places them in precisely the same order each night, and with a cheerful, ‘Come to bed, babies!’ they are arranged in the same order that they entered his life.

First comes Binga, the little black bear that he fell head over heels in love with, in the magazine aisle in our local Asda. Love will find you anywhere, in fact love will find you wherever it wants to. As the saying goes, the heart knows what it wants. And my boy wanted that bear. Now Binga, was a little bear that was the first in a weekly nature magazine series which we didn’t continue buying—partly because from the first moment that he looked at this bear, he had so much love for his Binga that none of the other animals that came after, could compare, and partly because we just couldn’t afford to buy every magazine.

White Bear, is tiny, has a British flag on his chest and was given to him by his Uncle Steve, who stayed with us on a trip up to Scotland from his native England. The love between my boy and White Bear, was instant and almost as deep as the magazine aisle love-affair. Unfortunately, because of White Bear’s small stature, he has been the cause of many late-nights and me frantically crawling under beds, behind cupboards and taking trips down to the car in the icy night-air, because, ‘Maybe he climbed out of my backpack and got lost in-between the seats and he is ALONE and he is scared, Mom! You have to go and rescue him!

Apart from writer, poet, registered nurse, psychiatric nurse, and midwife, I think I might add ‘Bear Rescuer’ to my CV, and you may infer from this what you will, but all I am saying is that if you want to know where tiny, soft toys hide out at night, I am your woman.

Dalmatian, Pink Poodle, and Penguin (yes, those are really their names), all followed me home after various trips to Ireland and Northern Ireland. Dalmatian and Poodle were lost and alone in Duty Free, and after sending photos home for approval, they were both accepted with a love as big and as bright, as the sun. Penguin was a museum shop baby who was tired of living with all his brothers and sisters. It got a bit cramped in that basket on the shelf and now he just loves being tucked up at night under a warm duvet, snuggled up to his fluffy siblings.

When this boy of mine loves, he loves from the inside out, with everything that he’s got, despite everything we were once told.

He might not understand love, or how to show affection.’

For a short while, I allowed those words to climb through my windows and into my heart, but let me tell you this—apart from being an excellent bear-hiding-place-finder, I am also really, really good at saying, ‘No.’, at closing doors when they need to be closed, but really that is a story for another time.

This story is about taking back what was taken from others—refusing to give what was taken from others.

Because this boy of mine knows how to love, and his love is always a soft place, and I grew up in an {extended} family where most boys were not allowed to be soft.

They were not allowed to live unhindered in their own skin.

Boyhood was a short season.

And boys don’t cry, and they don’t show fear, and they don’t tuck babies to bed wearing gentleness as a crown. Not when they are already twelve seasons old.

No.

Where I grew up, boys were {already} men.

A story with no end, and with no soft beginning.

It might have gone on, and on, and on, but I said, ‘No. No more of this.’

This boy shall breathe the rhythms of his own body. This boy shall grow into his bones, and into his skin, at the rate of his own seasons.

This boy shall dance, and he shall wear a red skirt if he wants to, and for a long while he did, and the shape of it around his bare boy-legs as he spun round, and round, in the afternoon light, filled him up with so much happiness that you could stare at his face for hours after and know that you were in a cleft in a rock, and you were looking at everything good in this world.

Everything that God put here, so that I can find my way home.

Every morning when I make my son’s bed, I find his babies asleep on the pillow next to him.

It always makes me smile; makes my heart sigh a deep sigh of contentment and I’ll tell you why.

It is because I am growing a man, slowly.

Unhindered in his own skin, he loves deeply and with wild abandon.

He knows nothing else than this—that every night he makes a safe place for everything that he loves, and in the morning, he starts all over again.

— A story of a boy and his babies.

Image my own.

© Liezel Graham 2020.

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