A Kiss for Her Baby
The piping hot water in the sink is turning my hands a lobster red. I pull a casserole dish from the sudsy water and run the sponge over and around the rim and surfaces. My shoulders ache from the tension and stress of the day, and I can’t wait to finish this last chore.
As I rinse the glass under steaming water, I suddenly remember where the dish came from. I examine the gold rim and the bright red flowers that are centered on the creamy white middle. She held this dish…and she washed it clean, just as I’m doing…maybe one cold winter evening like this one, after a supper of tuna casserole or, maybe, home-made macaroni and cheese. I place the glass container carefully on the drainer board.
The darkened window above the sink reflects my shadowy face, and I stand still and stare into the past for a minute, trying to imagine my tall husband as a little boy. Did he help her set the table? Would he remember the food she’d prepared in this bowl? Did he laugh with her; stand beside her as they washed and dried the dishes together?
I look around my own modern kitchen and take a swipe at a bead of water on the countertop. The floors are swept, and the dishes are done. The house is quiet at last and I smile at the neatness and order that I know will disappear again in the morning. I turn out the lights on another hectic day and amble down the hall toward bed.
When I come to my son’s room, I stop and peek in. His dark head is snuggled deeply into his pillow, and his blanket is stretched tautly over his long body, one foot sticking out, as usual, for “air” at the bottom of his bed.
Where did my baby go? I can’t resist bending over him to stroke his hair. I used to do this every night. I smile at him and place a kiss on my fingertips to transfer to his cheek.
As I turn to go, I think about whether she did this, too. Did she stand over the bed of my husband in his teen years, watching his lanky form while he slept, regretting the passing of time and wondering, like I do, “Where’d my baby go?”
The question remains in my head as I slip into bed beside my sleeping spouse. His face is pressed tight into his pillow, and his snores are yet on the gentle side. Though I’ve seen many photos of him as a child, it’s difficult for me to imagine this slumbering giant beside me as her son, her boy, and her baby. I sigh as I watch him rest.
My husband had not been my favorite person today. We’d argued and disagreed over every little thing. I’d thought he was too bossy and he’d thought I was too nagging. He’d gone to bed in a huff and I’d been glad he was finally out of my hair.
His hair is ruffled and sticking up and I reach out to smooth it down, but I hesitate. I’m still miffed with him, and the anger I harbor makes me turn my back to him instead.
The devotional I meant to read this morning is lying face-up on the bedside table, so I grab it and open my Bible to Isaiah.
“… you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandied on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you…”*
As a mother…comforts her child…. Hmmm.
I glance back at my husband and think about his mother. I’d never met her; she’d died long before he’d married me, and I’d often wondered if she’d like me. I notice my husband’s eyelashes fanned gently on the bend of his rough cheek. Their soft texture is all that remains as a testament of his little boy face; the face she stroked and kissed at night; the face she loved so much and held so dear.
I feel tears come to my eyes as I remember the harsh words I said to him today. Would I want my son’s wife to say those things to him? No, of course not. She wouldn’t want her son treated this way, either.
I quietly lean down to kiss his cheek as he sleeps. Twice.
“That one was for your Mama. And this one is for me,” I whisper.
*Isaiah 66:13, The Holy Bible, NIV