It was nap time. Parker was already sleeping soundly in his crib. Jackson and I tip-toed past him and climbed up onto the bottom bunk of his bed. Some days, what follows is exhausting to the millionth degree. Other days, sleep takes hold of him in a matter of minutes. Still other days, he tosses and turns before declaring, “I’ve gotta poop!” Then he races off to the bathroom. You just never know what adventure you’ll find at nap time.
But today would be easy. We snuggled under his Lightening McQueen blanket and Jackson felt around beside him to make sure that each of his animals was accounted for. His roster included Monkey, Bear, Moose, Spidybear, Snowman, Chicken and Goose (I know, we are supremely creative when it comes to naming stuffed animals). He wiggled and squirmed for a bit as he got settled. I closed my eyes hoping that he’d do the same. After a few minutes, I felt a pointer finger gently gliding across my eye brow, over and over again like a tiny brush. Next, I felt two cold feet sneak between my knees, which were stacked one on top of the other as I lay on my side. “My feet are freezing,” he whispered to me. He nestled them against my yoga pants and I was happy to radiate my warmth onto his small, much-too-quickly-growing feet.
This scene happens quite often at our house. And every time it does, I think about Jamie’s grandmother, Granny. Years ago after one family dinner she told me about how she would crawl into the bed each night with chilled feet. She’d ask her husband James, “Won’t you let me warm my feet against your legs?” And every time, he would agree. She’d rest her feet against him until they were heated through. Then she’d drift off to sleep with the warmest feet you can imagine. The feet of those warm with love.
As I feel the wiggly toes of a four-year-old against my legs, I always think about how a bit of Granny is tucked inside of Jackson. How, even though 85 years are between them, they are connected by a common ritual that played out for years upon years long before he was born. I think about how we are each our own selves and yet, we are also a compilation of so many who came before us. Jackson undoubtedly has his Daddy’s countenance and his love for hiking the old mountains that surround us. He has a stubborn streak and requires a lot of sleep, just like his Mama. I see Pawpaw in him when he works on a puzzle with quiet determination and I see bits of Mimi when I watch him notice and savor little treasures, like a smooth stone he discovers at the edge of the river. I see Pop in him when I watch him carefully build a wooden car with his toolset, and I see his Gigi’s generous spirit when he collects the first spring flowers and passes them into my hands with a smile. I wonder what other attributes can be traced back to someone else in his lineage, an ancestor who still lives on in a bit of Jackson. It reminds me that we are each a timeless collection of so many who came before us.
I open my eyes and carefully sit up to check and see if he is asleep yet. Sure enough, his eyes are closed. His short hair reminds me of the spines on a hedgehog, making a spiky helmet on his head. His cheeks are rounded more like a baby’s than a boy’s. His eyelashes, oh his long eyelashes, hold the gentle curve of a sail filled with wind while at sea. He is peaceful. I once read that God is the author of peace. In that moment, I know that it must be true.
As I quietly close the door upon two sleeping boys, I think about the four warm feet whose tiny owners are sound asleep. I think about Granny and Grandaddy James. I think of fireside feet and woolen socks and an old pup snuggled up to nearby toes. I think about the warmth of love, and I hope that we may each feel or remember or very soon find our feet warm with love these cold winter nights.