Sleeping Child

Her child lay asleep in the crook of her arm. How long she had rocked she herself had forgotten. Back and forth, back and forth. Till her movement had no beginning and no end. Had she started with a forward rock or a backward rock? Did she really care? Not so much. Only it struck her that it was one of those things that became almost impossible to do when you thought about them too much. Tired, she thought, so tired. Even now, when she had finally rocked him to sleep, rest was far away. How to transfer the sleeping child to his cot without awakening him? Yet could she not just rest awhile in the old rocking chair, enjoy the fruits of her labour, the snuffled snores of her little son, the tightly shut eyes, tracks of dried tears he had shed in the throes of exhaustion, looking to her to make him stop crying.

Oh but how she had tried. The things she had attempted. She had put him to her breast. Frenzied, he had rejected her. Forcing down the old fears, repeating to herself- it’s not his fault, not like the others- she had held him against her shoulder and walked the rooms of her house, wearing down the carpet in her weary imagination. Still the howls from her little scrap of humanity had not abated. Aggrieved at her failure, tormented by the vision of her mother-in-law waking up to offer advice, she had resorted to gripping him around his middle, his back to her heartbeat, and dancing- yes, actually dancing, the horror of it!- all around the room. The jerky movements had, paradoxically, calmed the child. Had his brain been damaged by all the jolts¬†resulting from her clumsy gait? Dear god she hoped not. Poor thing’s been shocked into silence by me, she thought, wanting to so badly but not daring to giggle.

Only when she knew for certain that he had gotten over his- what did the old lady refer to it as? Yes, his spell- only then did she sink gratefully into the old rocking chair.

Back and forth, back and forth she’d rocked, not daring to stop till she could actually feel his sleep in her eyes.

Oh my darling, she sighed in the way of all mothers everywhere, who love their children when they are awake, but infinitely more when they are asleep.

Yes it was time to effect the transfer. Lip between teeth, concentrated breathing. Careful now, lean forward just so. These rocking chairs can be tricky. Not enough and you will never get out. Too much and you will find yourself on the floor, under the very same rocking chair that had previously been your source of comfort.

Careful now. Holding her child tight she eased herself to a standing position. Smooth glide tot he cot. Bend over, lowering the bundle gently.

Careful now. Oh so very lightly, roll him out of arms into cot. Oh well done! Self congratulations in order. Cover with the blanket. Turn to go. One last look. Good night, m y angel. And tiptoe out the room, shut the door quietly. Give everyone else in the house permission to breathe again.

16th August 2005

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