I helped Acorn out of his bath tonight and wrapped him in a fluffy pink towel. Coaxed him into a diaper and his blue cotton dinosaur pajamas. “Now, pick out a book for Gran-Gran to read,” I croaked, “and I’ll tuck you into bed.” Mum and I gave each other a glance and shared a silent giggle when he chose (with a classic toddler’s view of what is seasonally appropriate) The Night Before Christmas.
A scant hour later, he woke crying. Mum reached his room before I did, and asked him what he needed. “Need my Mama.” So I left my spot in the doorway and took a spot by his bed. “Stay with me, Mama.”
I knelt down and leaned my head beside him. He held my hand in one of his, and clung to my hair with his other hand. “Did you have a nightmare?” I whispered after several minutes passed with no signs of him relaxing.
“Yes,” he said.
“What did you dream about?”
“The hook,” he said; or maybe it was, “The truck.” But he couldn’t tell me any more than that.
I stroked his hair with my free hand, and recited in a whisper the entire text of Goodnight Moon, of Where the Wild Things Are, of Dr. Seuss’s The Sleep Book, all I could recall of the first pages of The Hobbit. All the soothing stories that I know by heart, using all the voice I had left. Then, still sitting on the floor, I laid my head again on the bed beside my son, and rested there with him until I felt his body relax and his breathing slow as he passed again into sleep.