"Mama? Owwwie," Eli insists from his bed. "Owwwwie."
I turn his knob quietly and enter his room. "Do you need covered up?" I ask, seeing that he's bucked off his blankets during the night. "Yeah," he answers, his voice muffled by the pacifier in his mouth. I find his favorite snuggly blanket and tuck it around his body. He signals his approval by wriggling his bottom back and forth like a puppy wagging its tail. I turn, ready to make my escape.
"Mama stay with you," he says gently.
"I'll snuggle you for a minute, and then I'll come check on you in a while, okay?" Believe it or not, sometimes this works for me. I pat his back and spell his name in gentle rubs. His breathing slows. I think I see his eyes close, but I can't be certain in this early-morning darkness. I gently rise and head for the door.
Eli wails as I shut the door, and I hear him sit up in bed. The gig is up.
Still, he is only half awake, which means that his other half would rather go back to sleep. "Would you like to snuggle in Mama's bed?" I ask as a formality, already knowing the answer. "Yeah," he says, and he reaches up toward me.
In my arms, he melts into my body, he moves his head until he finds the nesting groove that he loves, part-way between my shoulder and neck. He is so instantly relaxed that I briefly wonder whether his condition is achievable in adulthood without the assistance of drugs or hypnotherapy.
We situate in bed, with me on my side, one arm chicken-winged under my pillow, the other hugging Eli. He lays on his back, perfectly still, sucking his pacifier. Periodically he sighs, in complete satisfaction: "Mmmm. Mmmmm."
I breathe in the smell of my two-year-old boy. I detect a hint of sweet vanilla pudding from last night's dessert. I know we wiped his face...perhaps he hid some in his hair? This mixes with the faint musk of earwax, the sweet of saliva, and the earthiness of his hair. As I inhale, the potion goes straight to my bones, and I am fortified as if by calcium.
We doze quietly as the light in the room morphs from black to gray to purple to blue. In this barely-light, Eli wakes up. He remembers he has a second pacifier in his hand, and he brings it up to the one in his mouth, as if his pacifier needs pacified. He turns toward me, the curve of his smiling lips peeking out from behind his pacifier; he knows this is a funny joke.
"Mama want some?" Eli generously offers his spare pacifier. "No thanks," I say, and turn my head, knowing he might insist. "In your ee-ah?" he says, putting it on my ear, then "In your aye?" as he gently pats it against my closed eye. "No thank you," I giggle, and then tickle his tummy to return the favor.
"Are you ready to get up?" I ask.
"I jump?" he requests, happily raising his eyebrows in anticipation.
We roll out of the covers. Eli jumps on the bed while I get dressed.
He puts his chubby hand into mine as we open the door and step into the day together.