An infant nestles in my arm after years and years of longing and loss, the whorl of her ear impossible, delicious. A second daughter arrives two years later, eyes the color of coffee from birth. We are the luckiest people we know. Nine years pass. No more babies. They are not to be. Until, unexpectedly, he is. With his arrival–our late-life bonus-baby–a move, too, across several states: new job, new life. What is wondrous is how it all swims back again—tucking him in one arm as I stir pancake batter, balancing a book to read as I nurse, swaying with him on my shoulder in the middle of the night. The repetition of mothering: diaper, nurse, burp, rock, cuddle, repeat. The daily work of babyhood is subsumed by the next developmental stage, routines shifting, giving way to new rituals, precise ending points hard to pinpoint.
Now, our son is twelve. One recent evening, hours after bedtime, he writhes and twists in bed, gripped by a stomachache. In the glow of the nightlight, I begin to sing: Twinkle, Twinkle; Hush Little Baby; The Bear Went Over the Mountain; Dona Nobis Pacem; Hey Ho, Nobody Home; I Sat Down with the Duchess at Tea; My Paddle’s Clear and Bright: the complete line up of all the baby songs I sang the girls, I sang to this later baby night after night, year after year. When did I stop? Each verse and melody floats back. I breathe them up until pain diminished, he sleeps.
These songs live in my mother muscle memory: a tapestry wrapped in tissue, put away for safekeeping in the bottom of the cedar chest, but lovely and bright when shaken out again, once needed. What else can we remember that we no longer thought we knew?
Ann Klotz is a writer and mother, who lives in Shaker Heights, OH, where she is the Head of Laurel School, a girls’ school. Her house is full of books and tiny rescue dogs. Her work has appeared in Mothers Always Write, Literary Mama, the Brevity Blog, Mutha, Mamalode and elsewhere. An essay about becoming a teacher has just been published in the anthology What I Didn’t Know released by Creative Nonfiction. She blogs semi regularly for the Huffington Post. You can read more of her writing at annvklotz.com or #annklotz