He looked up at me.
His eyes, a perfect clear blue, reflected his doubt and hesitation.
He is my first.
A boisterous, talkative boy.
He runs and climbs and smells musty at the end of the day.
His emotions run deep, deeper than I would have thought possible.
I could forget, with his swagger and his brazenness and his jokes, that, at his core, he is shy in new situations.
This was his first week at a new school.
And rather than his normal schedule, he was on a camp schedule: longer days, a full week.
I missed him.
And he missed me too.
“Kisses, Mama,” he said.
“How many kisses?” I asked.
He smiled and held up both his hands, all fingers and thumbs showing.
He’s learned that rote counting has meaning, that he can express those numbers on his hands.
“Ten kisses? You want ten?” I laughed.
He nodded, delighted.
In his mind, this was extravagance defined.
He can’t fathom, I think, that a number larger than both of his hands exists.
I hugged him to me, sideways, cautious of the baby in the front carrier.
And I began counting down his kisses, alternating cheeks.
Ten, nine, eight.
He’s done this a lot lately.
Sought physical reassurances as he grows toward independence.
This school, a new school, is one step along his path.
Seven, six, five.
His sister, at 7 months, is still a relatively new addition.
He’s my baby.
And yet he always will be.
Four, three, two.
These days, this request, this moment in our lives will not last.
I don’t know when, but I know the time is coming.
Soon, sooner than my mother heart can bear, he won’t ask me for kisses before I leave him.
And then, not long after, he won’t want them, even if I offer.
He is a piece of me.