He comes running into the room, breathless, and maybe it’s because I’m just on the brink of sleep but the footfall confuses me. Usually I know each one of them by this alone, could name who is coming down each of the two creaky staircases in this old house by the unique pattern of stomps and creaks, but these are heavy footsteps and I expect a man.Instead it’s my boy.

“Give me your phone!” he says, already pulling it from my hand. I instinctively hold tighter, pull back. This particular dance happens at least a half-dozen times per day, but this time I’m not letting go. Whatever inane YouTube video he wants to watch can wait. It’s bedtime.

“Please, Mommy, can I have it?”

The fingernails on the hand he’s wrapped around my phone are long and need to be trimmed. I look at him, and so is his hair, starting to curl where it brushes over the tops of his ears. He’s always growing out of or through something, it seems: his expensive shoes he had to have lest the other kids make fun of him at school, the show we used to enjoy together just six months ago, a mannerism I didn’t even remember being fond of until it was gone.

This kid I spent so much time just starting at, studying, drinking in with my eyes and my heart while I rocked him endlessly towards what I hoped would be sleep every night, now so often feels like a stranger to me. He’s busy, in love with things I don’t understand: baseball, video games, videos about video games, dub step. Even when I try to follow, which probably isn’t as often as it should be, he’s already moved on by the time I get there.

“Please? It’s the moon. It’s incredible. I want to take a picture.”

It’s not what I expected to hear, and I release the phone so quickly he lurches backward. Recovering, he runs again to the window.

“Actually, you should come see it too.”

So I rise, follow him there. He waits, for once. The moon is gorgeous, round and bright like a beacon in the night sky, the striated clouds fading in and out across it with the breeze making it look like it is gently rocking back and forth. We are stunned into a temporary silence together, the phone forgotten in his hand. With the curtains spread it casts whatever the opposite of a shadow is onto the worn boards of the wooden floor where we stand, next to faded lines in pencil on the wall, a growth chart. It’s been a while since we measured. He’s inches over the last mark.

I remember that scene in the movie An American Tail that I ugly-cried through as a child, where the two mouse protagonists are separated but take comfort in the fact that no matter where they are, they are sleeping under the “same big sky.” I wonder if that’s kind of what this I, the two of us, Jack and I, so different in so many ways, him already well on his way away from needing me the way he used to; yet for a second we are here, together, awed silent by the same beauty.

I take the smallest of steps towards him, wait, and take another, until I have shuffled my way into that moonbeam and my feet glow white and I can feel the warmth of him against me. I consider measuring him tonight, pressing his curls against the wall and marking this new space that he occupies, but for now it seems like enough just to stand here with him.

I had just heard on the radio the other day how different cultures see different things in the moon. In the Western world we talk of the man in the moon, in Asia they see a rabbit. Other cultures see a woman, a dragon, a moose, a buffalo, even a frog. For me, tonight, if I let my eyes go soft and squinty; I can see me and my boy, rocking gently across the great expanse of sky.

And he was right. It is incredible.

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9 thoughts to “The Boy in the Moon

  • Karen DeBonis

    It’s so bittersweet when our sweet boys grow up. Mine are now 26 and 31. How did that happen?? Beautiful, as always, Liz.

    • Liz

      So bittersweet, Karen. So so much. XOXO

  • Barb Aureli

    I’m someone who, unfortunately, didn’t always appreciate the moments till they were gone. Thank you for reminding me. You are incredible.

    • Liz

      Oh Barb I’d say I appreciate about 10% of them as they happen. Another 15% on top of that, maybe, after they are over. I’m still way under half. Trust me.

  • dolores petrone

    Jack gave you an early Mother’s Day moment. They all thug at you in different ways Liz. Even now my four still do. xxoo

  • Candice

    I love this because you’ve perfectly captured my feelings about my own boy. I live for the moments he let’s me snuggle with him so I can breathe him in. Unlike his sister he’s rarely willing to cuddle up to me so it’s always such a surprise when he does. And I love that he still calls me mommy. I caught his dad telling him he’s too old to use that word and I quickly shut that BS down. He could be 35 and calling me mommy and it would still make my heart soar. Thanks for the happy-sentimental tears, Liz!

    • Liz

      Oh my goodness Candice isn’t it funny how different it is between the two of them too? Maria is all about the snuggles, even more so than when she was little. Jack, not so much. I take what I can get. 🙂

  • Mary Beth Horsington

    I took Buffy (the dog) outside to pee last night before I went to bed and I saw it too . . . what a spectacular moon! Anybody walking by would have thought I was cray cray because I was actually discussing it with my dog as if to make sure he appreciated its beauty.
    I appreciate the beauty of this essay, too. The years go too quickly and the changes are so subtle, but so significant. The old cliché is true – enjoy every moment!

    • Liz

      MB what’s funny is the night this happened I was sure it had to be the full moon and it turned out I was wrong and it was the next night. I think there’s a lesson in that too maybe- like even incomplete, things can be perfect. XOXO


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