Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Night Train

I am, once again, on the Amtrak headed home to the city. It is night, and the baby is asleep against me, his head lolling, his mouth hanging open, his hands splayed helplessly, his hair spiked with sleep-sweat. His skin glows pale in the ever-so-slightly lurid flourescent light, his cheeks and lips cherry-pink. He is 18 months old today and still a nursling; despite his regular consumption of people-food, his staple is still breastmilk and he still breathes milk-breath - a peculiar sweet yogurty smell that I am sure any mother could recognize at twenty paces.

He sighs and shifts in my arms. He has no idea that we are hurtling through the night at some unconscionable number of miles per hour, no idea that when he wakes up, he will be somewhere else altogether, somewhere nothing like the place where he was when he fell asleep. Looking down into face, I am momentarily befuddled by the magnitude of my responsibility - I am the one responsible for safely conveying this small, clammy, yogurt-breathing being from place to place and for being sure that he is properly fed, cleaned, and clothed on the way. It seems almost bizarre that the universe would leave this to chance, that something somewhere in the inner workings of time and space thought that this was a pretty good idea: "Yeah, an' we're gonna make each an' ev'ry one of 'em helpless so it can't do nuthin' for a really lowwng time so this one lady she gotta be sure it's OK an' alive an' so on an' so fort'." (Why do the inner workings of time and space speak with a New York accent, you ask? Listen, I don't have all the answers. I'm just a conduit here, OK?)

The days move faster now, nothing like those early baby days when an afternoon could stretch for years. There seems to be (perhaps fortunately for my long-suffering readers) a great deal less time to moon about and think maudlin thoughts about my baby. It is a blessing, then, to have time, on the quiet night train, to gaze into his flushed sleeping face and to feel the full force of motherhood.

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