The street lamp outside my window is casting forth just enough light for me to make out the edges of my mother’s face. Her broad, high cheekbones curve down toward her chin, and her strong, straight nose slices across the darkness of my room.
Moments before, she closed our last book of the night and switched off my lamp, and now here she is, laying beside me, her fingers tracing shapes on my back, her quiet voice telling me a story.
Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Corey…
From my spot on the bed, in the dim light, I can faintly see the pictures hanging on the wall across from us. My eyes settle on the one with the small, wooden frame, the one that holds tiny words written in pastel, cross-stitched threads:
Cleaning and scrubbing can wait ’til tomorrow,
For babies grow up we’ve learned to our sorrow,
So quiet down cobwebs and dust go to sleep,
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.
Though I’m still little, I am old enough to know what the saying means: These moments won’t last so it’s best we hold them close.
My mother finishes up her story and pulls me in for a goodnight hug. I know she has a hundred other things she could be doing, but I don’t want her to leave.
Just one more book, Mommy, I beg.
Just one more story…
Just one more minute…
Just one more…
Even though I plead, I know I don’t have to, because my mother’s fingers were the ones that stitched those words hanging in the space between us. As she slips her hand in mine, I know her answer will be yes.
She pulls me close again, and then, of course, she stays.
* * *
When my belly is swollen big enough that I can feel my daughter kick, my mother comes to visit. Her suitcase— which is almost as full as me—is overflowing with gifts in anticipation of this sweet girl’s arrival: new onesies and miniature socks, stacks of my own well-loved childhood books, and dresses I once wore as a baby. And there, at the bottom of the pile, sits that wooden frame with its stitched reminder of the fleeting moments that will soon be mine.
We hang up the dresses and put away the clothes and slide the books next to one another on the bookshelf. I watch as my mother hammers a tiny nail into the wall and hangs the frame on it, tapping its bottom corner to set it straight.
My mother takes a step back, and her shoulder meets mine. She turns and gently rests her palm on the high crest of my stomach, right where my daughter’s feet are pressed. We stand there for a while, and she keeps it there, hoping her granddaughter’s toes will gently kiss her hand.
As I cover my mother’s hand with my own, I remember the nighttime moments we once shared, and I feel my eyes fill with tears. She knows just what I need, so she stays here with me, quietly answering all the requests I’m leaving unspoken.
* * *
My daughter, Zoey, is in the shower, singing one of the songs she’s been practicing for her upcoming holiday program. I’m taking these few minutes as a chance to cross some things off my to-do list, so I’m rummaging around my laundry room closet, trying to find hiding places for her Christmas gifts.
The top shelf holds a few boxes, and since one of them isn’t labeled, I cross my fingers it is empty, just waiting to be filled with presents. But when I pull it down, I find it full. Inside, there is the mobile that hung from the ceiling of my nursery, the rattle I grew up chewing on, and the baby book in which my mother documented my earliest moments. And then, at the bottom, there’s that small wooden frame, the one that somehow was never hung up in my daughter’s room after we moved into our new place last year.
I pull it out and place my fingers on the glass, tracing the words, feeling my eyes momentarily close. There I am, lying in bed, listening to my mother’s sleepy voice tell the story of a little girl named Corey. I walk into Zoey’s room and set the warm, wooden frame on the top of her picture ledge, tapping its edge to nudge it closer toward the middle.
I hear the water turn off, and I make my way back toward Zoey. I wrap her up in a warm towel, help her into pajamas, and start reading her the books she has picked out for tonight. After I turn the last page, I reach up and switch off her lamp. The twinkling lights outside the window give off just enough light so I can see Zoey’s ski-slope nose turn toward my own.
I pull her in close for a hug, and her hair brushes my cheek. I giggle at the sensation, and Zoey joins in with me, her laughter cutting through the dark.
Shhh, I say to quiet her. It’s bedtime. It’s time to settle down.
Tell me one more story, she pleads. Stay with me a little longer.
For a moment, my mind is a mess with all the things waiting for me just outside her door: the laundry and work and cleaning and lunch-making and all the other nighttime chores.
Just one more book, Mommy, Zoey begs.
Just one more story…
Just one more minute…
Just one more…
I think of those words now resting above me, the ones that have been stitched in time, and suddenly, although she is not here with us, I hear my mother’s voice in the distance, traveling to us from 30-some years ago. I can’t make out all the words, but I don’t need to, because the one that’s speaking the loudest is the one that matters the most:
All at once, everything seems to be colliding into this fragile moment, the one where the past and the present are dancing with one another. We’re suspended here, making these memories, and if we aren’t careful—if we aren’t paying attention, if we aren’t holding them close—we may lose them forever.
But I—like Zoey does, and just like my mother did, all those years before—want them to stay for as long as possible.
So I begin another story, my unspoken answer of acquiescence:
Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Zoey…
* * *
So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep,
I’m saying yes to these moments, because I want them to keep.
Because everything else can surely wait ‘til tomorrow.
Corey is a writer, graphic designer, and mom to her amazing daughter, Zoey. Here at The Nostalgia Diaries, her goal is to simplify, enhance, and engage people’s lives by helping them focus on the most important things: remembering, appreciating, believing, and becoming. It’s all about celebrating the past to create better days today.
Just joining me on my journey? Catch up on the Everyday Nostalgia series here.
At The Nostalgia Diaries, our goal is to help you simplify, enhance, and engage your lives by focusing on the most important things: remembering, appreciating, believing, and becoming. It’s all about celebrating the past to create better days today.