You sleep, I think

You crawl into my bed just after the sun has pulled itself from the earth, ducking beneath the mosquito netting that is loosely tucked underneath the mattress. Your voice, when you call out my name, is thick with sleep.

“Mummy…can I sleep in your bed?”

I never say no. Truth be told, I miss the days when all you knew was my bed. But these days, the entire night with you in my bed leads to bruises on my back and aching ribs as you kick and stretch out all night long. Perhaps you seek the security of knowing I am right there so you have a tendency of sticking out your leg, your arm, your head into whatever direction you believe I am sleeping. Funny thing, when you come to my room in the morning, you fall asleep so fast and you do not reach for me at all. As we were taught in Swahili class, so many eons ago, unalala fo fo fo. 

I stared at your sleeping face this morning. Your lashes fanned out, covering those eyes that your Auntie Talu says she has no words for. One time, when you were just over two years old, we were boarding a flight together to Diani for my work trip. My right hand cupped the back of your thighs and you had placed your chin on my right shoulder, staring out behind me. As we were standing in line, a young non-millenial mzungu guy tapped me on my shoulder and said to me that he thought your eyes were so beautiful. I quickly said thank you after giving him the once-over, the Law and Order SVU eyeball check (when you’ve watched it for so long, you are likely able to identify a predator within three seconds?) and noting that he was likely harmless. I stared at you as you slept, your breath moving softly, drawing in and out. Your cheeks fill up your face, and they are very still as you sleep. Surprising, because your whole face is always in motion. Even your rugged thick eyebrows are constantly telling a story.

I have traveled far and wide with you. I have coaxed you to sleep on my back with a maasai sheet, the same one we wrapped you in when you came home from hospital, cried all night and then slept through the photo shoot marking your official social media entry into the world. I have played with you in so many airports, feigning my repeated surprise each time you turned around and discovered planes through the airport windows…or red tractors putt-putting around the runway tarmac outside. For someone so young, your passport is busy. We have entertained each other on long haul flights, but I surely miss breastfeed-and-knockout days. Now that you have a healthy vocabulary, concrete opinions and a lack of embarrassment, our conversations are often hilarious and inappropriate. Like when you pipe up about your penis or Mummy’s boobs. It is my own fault really. I blame my public health training. I also feel nothing when you start talking about those things. I just answer you. Then I look at the strangers looking at me, sometimes sideways, and silently raise my eyebrow at them. Just the left one.

Sometimes you ask me so earnestly to play with you as you build a long trailer truck with your legos. These legos, gifted to you by Auntie Becky when we ‘rested’ at her house in Arizona as we drove cross country from South Carolina to California, have really survived. They have seen Africa. I feel the need to sing out the Lion King birth celebration song…

In that moment, when you place yourself into my bed, snuggling your prayer-clasped hands beneath your cheek and you descend back into sleep, I am amazed by you. And for just a hot second, I wonder why I kicked you out of my bed into your own crib. You are quiet in this moment, taken by sleep, and not chatting incessantly about tow trucks, excavators, fire trucks, sirens and all things engine-and-construction driven.

I am completely amazed by your vigor for life then you turn around and display your sometimes-shy nature. You climb all over me, dipping the sides of your mouth when I say no to a request from you or refuse to baby you. It was hard for me to figure out when to stop catering to your every cry because you had learned how to manipulate situations using your cry. I got hip to it but it was hard. Now, looking at you as you sleep so soundly, I wonder at what age you will no longer seek me out just to sleep in tandem.

You are growing so fast. You tell me full stories. We hold conversations. And not just about trucks and excavators. You asked me this morning where my penis hides and I told you I have a vagina. You called it a mangina. Mmmh, win some, lose some.

Life is rolling by so fast and I hate missing the moments with you when I have to be elsewhere, working and hustling to make our money. I come back home to long, non-stop tales of how this and that happened. Your words rush over each other and you try to smile in the middle of it all and you try to talk faster than you can breathe. It makes me smile.

When you sleep, you are silent but full of motion, full of life. Your eyes flutter open and you find me looking at you.

“Is it morning yet?”


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