i’ve never been an easy child.

as an infant, i had colic. as a kid, i always wanted to be the centre of attention. as a teenager, my mother and i suffered from a near-terminal case of misunderstanding each other, and went head to head on a regular basis. even as an adult, despite a deep and genuine closeness and years and years of detente, we still have very different sensibilities. and i am seldom anywhere near as patient with her – her suggestions, her ideas, her stories, her “little reminders” – as i mean to be.

but last night i felt closer to my mother – from across town – than i have in years. it was the middle of one of Oscar’s screaming sessions, and i was walking back and forth across the bedroom for the fiftieth time, swinging him gently, hoping the pain wracking him would let up long enough for him – and me – to fall asleep for a little while. i was tired, and sad – near tears myself from the stress and the frustration of not being able to help him, soothe him. and as i shifted his weight into the cradle of my left arm, shifting my feet in the rhythm of Brahms’ Lullaby, i looked down into his little outraged, howling face and realized that we were part of a dance that is probably truly old as time.

there is a rare intimacy in being awake together, mother and child, in the middle of the night. it is an intimacy deeper than words, one of touch and almost-toneless singing, a private little song and dance evolving all the time. and for a moment, last night, as i rocked Oscar in my arms, i remembered the rhythm of being the one who was rocked like that. and i remembered that my mother did this alone: woke with me through the colic, through the tonsilitis and the earaches that plagued me as a toddler, through the night terrors and the loneliness and melancholy that enveloped me sometimes as i grew. and i realized, though i do not remember, that she too must have held me in weary arms as she paced the floor and looked down into my face desperate for me to shut up. and that she must have loved me like this, too, to keep going, to keep getting up, to keep being there all those nights i cried for her.

i was humbled, and grateful. and it comforted me, that visceral memory of being held close, and the feel of a rough, warm hand on mine.  it reminded me that what i’m doing these nights as i walk the floors is important.  from this, he is learning: trust, patience, how to take comfort from others.  somewhere beneath the consciousness of the adult Oscar will someday become, remnants of our night dance will stay with him…even if he never remembers.  i think i need to tell my mother that i do.  and say thanks.