I think I understand my mother better now. I understand why she would stay awake after we all went to sleep, reading, or watching tv, often with a small bowl of plain potato chips beside her. It is 12:30 am. I have just nursed my infant daughter to sleep. She is in bed, upstairs in the loft, my partner is asleep in bed beside her, where I should probably be, also sleeping. But instead I am downstairs, sitting on the bottom step, in front of the wood stove, with a hot cup of tea in my hands. It is the first hot drink I’ve had all day, the only one that is not lukewarm and too strong by the time I reach it. And, I hope, unlike the others I will finish it, instead of being distracted by a diaper change, or separated from it by the need to breastfeed.
Mom still keeps her nightly ritual, and I wonder now if instead of solace from a house full of noise and two raucous daughters, the nightly moments on her own serve as reminders of when we were both there, instead of in our own houses with our own newborns.
I love my daughter. I am thrilled to have a year to stay at home to hold her, to wear her around for most of my day, to sing to her, to rock her to sleep. The time to spend with her, with my partner, building our family is a privilege. But so too are these few stolen moments by myself. My family in the bed in the loft above me, our huskies curled in tight balls at my feet, the northern lights and the cold subarctic dark outside around us all.
I recognize mom and her small rituals in a new way now, see that it was not that she was a night owl- or, if she was an owl, she only spent her nights scanning for and grasping at a small darting bits of stillness and solitude, skittish and as difficult to catch as mice. I’ll head back upstairs soon, probably only a few minutes really since I came downstairs. But I can fit a lot into a few quiet moments. I’ll be back upstairs, arms around my daughter, back warmed by my furnace of a mate. Until I go back to my roost for the night, I’ll sit here, like my mom may be doing at this moment as well, far away, hands grasping tight at my hot mug, eyes wide in the quiet and dim light.