My eight month old son typically falls asleep in his crib, grabbing my weary hand and pulling it to his tiny chest. Some nights he just holds my hand close; other nights, he wraps his arms and legs around my hand and tucks into the corner of his crib. And I stand there, a prisoner of his sleep ritual. I inventory the dirty dishes and unwashed laundry, and acknowledge that I have things to do beyond standing and listening to his increasingly heavy sighs and murmurs. But just as I go to extricate myself via Chinese acrobatics from his straight-jacket hold, I consider how ephemeral the moment is, how I will never again experience the intoxicating combination of need, defenselessness, and innocence, how every day I come closer to him not needing me like this. It’s inevitable, but there I remain, selfishly absorbing every detail of his face, his gently moving lips, his safari nursery, his firetruck pajamas, opening every sense I have to its fullest capacity in the futile attempt to indelibly etch the vanishing moment in my mind. I can only guess this is what love is, for I know all that will remain, one rueful day in the future, is a vague impression of this fleeting moment.
I stand in the darkness and watch my little boy sleep, and I realize I am now holding onto him.