The house is warm and fragrant
the scent of rosemary and mint shampoo floats through the rooms
Sleep and solitude are so close
We make the nightly rounds
First The Baby and one more song and never let mama go
and the door left open, just a crack
Then the oldest boy in the room next door
binders and books splayed out on the bed,
wracking his brain to recall lessons learned earlier in the day
Too focused to acknowledge my shape in the doorway
with anything more than the rise of an eyebrow.
The second son, tucked away on the third floor, is so quiet
we sometimes forget to check in
Lost in his thoughts, in the importance of everything, the fairness of nothing,
rushing to get someplace but not knowing where to go
in the narrow corridors of his grey matter
And the girl, who says things in daylight hours like,
‘I want to spend more time with you,’
shuns the time I offer
Don’t interrupt, she is soaking up each second until ‘lights out’
Her notebooks and pencils occupying our bed as she has nowhere else to go
Do you need anything? Are you okay? I ask each one.
They are engrossed in their drawings, drudgery, daydreams
Too busy for small talk, they exercise an economy of words
The older ones are too old to smooth the wet, ruffled, after-shower hair.
Too big to read a story to
But wasn’t it just last year when we all got sucked into that popular series?
Stretching the bedtime hour to read the next chapter
And the next.
Since nobody needs me, I settle my head on the pillow
But the girl, sensing stillness, feels an itch to stir the calm
She has to show me something, ‘It’s so awesome!’
Instructions for a homemade hamster hammock
‘Wouldn’t it be great for Pepper?’
She must make it Now! or it will never happen
So in her last allotted minutes, she rips the sleeves off a t-shirt and sews a pouch.
And of course the hamster must try the pouch Now!
So now there is a girl with a hamster in a homemade pouch on the bed.
As the hamster escapes and scampers across my lead legs,
the second son meanders into our room.
He stands quietly beside my bed
But he doesn’t need anything
He makes sure to tell us so when I look at him quizzically
‘Can I get anything for you guys before I go to bed?’ he asks.
‘We’re fine.’ We answer. But he has not moved. There is something else.
‘Okay then.’ He is still standing there
‘Are you okay?’ I ask
‘Fine,’ he looks away as if embarrassed to ask,
‘But can I just sit here with you for a little while?’
We fold him under the covers, this boy now taller than me.
As his younger sister shuffles the hamster,
who keeps wriggling out of the pouch,
from hand to hand,
we all giggle at the absurdity
which draws the oldest boy in
He just happened to finish his work and found a video
And it’s ‘so friggin funny’ and ‘you have to watch it’
So we do
And we all laugh
And from the other room,
‘Hey whatca all laughing for?’
The Baby in her pj's and floppy hair and wide eyes,
interpreting the No Child Left Behind act to mean something else,
climbs onto the bed
Suddenly they all remember that there were things they needed to say
Of things that happened and grades they received
Of teachers they love or hate
Of lunch and the bus
Of sports and death and lost calculators
These children who do not want to have anything to do with each other
now poke each other’s ribs and shake the bed with laughter
piling up in the center, limbs entwined
They do not realize how much they love each other yet
For now we just float on our own island.