"This one. I want this one!" The little girl exclaimed, handing the book to her mother.
"Fine, just put on your pjs, brush your teeth and hop into bed and I'll be there in two shakes of a lambs tail." her mother responded. With that the girl bolted from the room, up the stairs, and got ready for her nightly story.
Five minutes passed when a shout of "Ready" that was unmistakably one of exhilaration came booming through the house. How such a small body could make such a large sound.......
Climbing the stairs and shuffliing down the hallway, the mother peaked her head into the room. "Is there a little angel in here who would like to hear a story?" started the routine. Which was always followed by a high pitched "YES!".
The mother walked into the room and noticed all the little things a mother is supposed to notice. The glow of the low watt bulb on the face of her daughter as it shone up at her, the way the footies in her pjs were a little too long, the different array of stuffed animals on the bed that night compared to the last, what room her doll was sleeping in in her deluxe model Beverly Hills mansion.
And as she looked down she could see Mr Jingles (her most favoritest stuff aminal in the world) wrapped in her arms and Jimmy the Giraffe lying at the foot of her bed. The rest of her managerie spread across the room in certain array, the way only a child could understand. Her mother had tried to figure out the arrangement in who sleeps where but after a while only took it for one of those cute little quirks that set her little girl apart from all the other little girls.
The first chore was tucking in, feet first and enough room to where she could move her arms over the covers and put them back under when they got too cold. Then came the inevitable, "You're a big girl now, so before we start the story do you have to go pottie?" which was usally followed by an abrupt and to the point "no." She had learned that by going to the pottie after she brushed her teeth she wouldn't have to wait for the story when all that was done.
The mother came to her nightly spot in the solid oak rocking chair that glowed in its' finish in the dim light. At times it would melt into the room and at others it seemed to stick out like a sore thumb. The chair shifted slightly as the mother sat down and took out her reading glasses. She didn't really need them anymore, but that was what made story time all the more fun.
"For this evenings entertainment," mother began, "is Cinderella. How does this one begin?"
"Like they all do mom..... Once upon a time..." the little girl replied poorly holding in the nightly giggle at this question.
"That's right, I always forget. It's a good thing I have you here to remind me or I don't know what I'd do." This would make another giggle rise, and another attempt at suppression.
"Once upon a time.." the mother began, as she did every night and with each passing page the daughter's eyelids sank further and further until when Cinderella finally arrived at the ball, her eyelids were closed.
Once upon a time, the mother thought, we're going to finsh a story.
She heard the first sure silent sounds of sleep and slowly closed the book. The binding made a small noise but nothing to bother her daugther. Instead of getting up from her chair and walking to finish the work she had to do she sat there, studying her child, gently brushing the hair back from her forehead. Or as she liked to say, stealing a line from her favorite poem, "touching skillfully, mysteriously."
The mother adjusted quietly in the rocking chair and leaned her head against the back of the chair. She peered down at the child and slowly let her eyes close and imagined.
You slowly strode to the podium to accept your diploma, head of your class, the most beautiful of everyone there. You accepted the microphone from the dean and began to speak to the throngs of your fellow graduating students. A steady underflow of applause lead you and you settle comfortably, adjusting the microphone slightly. Then you began your speech, and you brought me back to the days of old with four little words, "Once upon a time, a little girl laid in her bed, waiting for her story to be heard....." After that I didn't remember much except nearer the end, "I would like to thank my mother who has made me everything that I am today." But no matter what happens, I will always love you.
The mother shifted in the chair, listened to the silent sounds of the house as it settled. She ignored the sounds and let herself slip again.
On the far set of bleachers in the gym, there you sat. You're tassel turned to the right, waiting patiently for the beginning of you life to end. You always told me, "I don't know what I want to do when I get out of here. "Maybe waitress, maybe fo out to California and try my luck there. I don't know" And I would always ask about college, but you said that wasn't your "game". Your life is your own, I would tell you, and only you can make yourself happy. With those reassuring words, you would give me the courteous nod and be on your way to whatever lay ahead. But no matter what happens, i will always love you.
The mother's chin came up from her chest, a slight dampness at the corner of her mouth. Five more minutes I'll sit here, she thought. Then I have to get back to work.
The day you told me I couldn't believe it. The day we found out, it was like a kick in the chest, pushing me back against a solid wall of confusion and upset. The test had said positive, but how was that possible? You're my little girl, bot someone else's! But I have to let the nest door eventually. But who thought it would be this soon? "Mom, I'll take care of it." you told me. How can a child take care of a child? I would ask in return. The look in your eyes told me what I was to believe. But no matter what happens, I will always love you.
She shifted once again in the now uncomfortable chair, listen to it creak underneath her. "Why haven't I gotten a new chair?"she muttered to noone in particular. Then the mother closed her eyes one final time.
Fourth grade at a new school is a big step, I told you as I stood at the door with you on the first day of school, at a new school none the less. Do you want me to walk with you to the bus stop? You stared down at your shoes, and looked up to me, "Mommy, I'm a big girl now. I want to go myself the first day." Good I said, but didn't mean it. A little peck on the check and a tight hug arond the waist and you started to walk away to your first day at school. Bye hon, love you! I yelled behind you, not expecting a response. "I love you bunches mom!" you yelled back looking at me while you crossed the street to the bus stop. The screech of tires moved my head as if one a string and I watched as you flew through the air like the proverbial angel. A ragdoll thrown into the gale. Before the realization hit, you were gone. But no matter what happens, I will always love you.
With that, the mother's eyes rapidly opened, feeling the damp of her cheeks and the salty buildup of her eyes. She looked around the room and noticed for the first time the rain outside along with the random lightning, illuminating the room with sudden clarity. She looked down at her daughter, sleeping peacefully, Mr Jingles cradled in her left arm, the right hanging loosely off the bed. The mother glanced down, took her daughter's delicate hand in hers, enveloping it entirely.
The mother fell asleep in the chair, and woke to the early morning sounds of her daughter and the first rays of dawn stretching through the curtains she had made only two weeks earlier.