What should I dream about? she asks me every night as I turn out her light and turn to leave. It's as if I'm the trusted keeper of the magic of the night. Although so often I'm caught off guard and my suggestions are uninspired or off the cuff. On good nights I might say Africa or Diana Nyad or Heaven.
Do you actually dream about the people or places I suggest? I've asked. She has affirmed. This confirmation nudges me to take my invitations on who or where to visit more thoughtfully. I wonder how much longer she'll ask me this. I wonder how many more nights she'll look to me with kaleidoscope eyes for a dream prompt.
Slowly and then all at once, they grow up, they go on. It occurs to you one day that it's been awhile since you've visited playgrounds, kissed boo boos, or looked under beds and in closets for monsters or boogeymen. Then one night you go to tuck them in and they're already fast asleep holding onto books you cannot believe they are already old enough to read.
Day by day they need us less and less. It's so subtle the stealth way childhood slowly slips away. A mother's sudden realization is stark and sobering though. I always thought there'd be one more bedtime story, another visit to Santa, a few more pleas to have tea parties or rounds of hide and seek. We think we have so much time, and suddenly they are tall and wise and driving away as we stand in the driveway and wave while smiling and crying.