She woke up crying, but I stalled. The chapter I was reading had not ended, and besides, her nap had not been quite as long as they normally are. (And the chapter was really good.)
So I waited for her to settle back in to sleep.
But she insisted, her cries growing more anxious (and distracting), and I couldn’t finish the chapter anyway; and besides, the story would be there still tonight, and she was quickly moving from impatient to indignant.
So I crashed into her room, all smiles and songs, hoping to cheer her up and make her forget all about my most recent neglect.
With a scoop and sway, I cradled her, offering a snack or some juice or a toy to play with, a trade-off for absent mothering.
But all she wanted was me.
So I listened (this time) and let her snuggle against my chest, felt her press her cheek into my shoulder. Her fists squeezed beneath my arms, tucked against my side, and we rocked back and forth to almost-sleep, two pieces fitting neatly together.
I never know how long these moments will last. But I know eventually that they will end altogether.
And with that knowledge, I refuse to watch the clock tick from 4:24 to 4:57, refuse to remember that I should be thinking of what to cook for dinner, but before that, I should run to the grocery store, but before that I should dry the load of wet towels in the washer, but before that it’s almost 5 o’clock and I haven’t even made the bed.
So I refuse and remain in the moment, all the while knowing that before I can cook dinner and shop for groceries and dry wet towels and make the bed, she will grow restless. My shoulder will grow too sharp, her cheek too warm, her body too still. She will have rested, and she will want to spend that energy somewhere other than curled like a cat above my breastbone.
But in the time it takes for her to crave that freedom, I will focus on her lashes fluttering against my jaw. I will tap out a silent song with my fingertips along the slope her nose makes, her quiet heartbeat my rhythm. I will listen to her breaths, deep and effortless, in and out without a care.
Strangely enough, though the clock ticks on, this moment we are lying in is timeless.
And for a little while, within this small moment inside of 4:24 and 4:57 on a lazy afternoon, I can pretend that we are infinite.