I remember your smell. In the evenings, right around 5 o’clock, I would carry you, squirming, into the bathroom. You’d flail and wiggle until I turned the faucet handle, bathwater gushing into the tub. Then you’d understand, know that the time had come for boats and ducks and bubbles. It was splash and shout time, release all of the day’s leftover sillies. When we had reduced each other to sopping, sighing jellyfish, I’d shout, “Up!” You’d fold into the old blue towel, warm from being left on top of the heating vent. In the few steps from the bathroom to your nursery, I’d bury my face into the soft brown curls at the nape of your neck and breath deep. I’d drown in the smells of baby bath and clean you, swear that it was the most intoxicating scent in the world.
I remember your laugh- that silent belly-chuckle, mouth wide, lips stretched taught in an almighty hysterical gape revealing the scoop of the roof of your mouth, your perfect teeth like Chiclets all in a row. You’d gasp and squeal, buck and twist as I blew raspberries on every inch of skin. Those teeth would come together, lined up in two curving tracks, and you’re laugh would come through the cracks, mouth smiling, eyes alight. We would laugh hours away, you not yet talking, the two of us communicating through that otherworldly mental link that only a mother and her child can know. I wanted to bottle that laugh, string it from a cord strung round my neck so that your happiness might stay forever next to my heart.
There is no moon tonight. Laying in the yard that still reverberates with the ghost of your footsteps, I feel the grass pricking my shoulders and imagine it’s you prodding me, silently asking for five more minutes to play. The world has become a shadowed place, and without you I think only of my eventual departure when I might find you waiting for me on the other side.
I hope there’s a heaven…and I hope you’re there.