Pillow Talk


“Mom, when you were a girl, did you have toys?”

My four year old asked me this a few nights ago and thus began a new ritual: talking about my childhood. He asks questions. I tell stories. We do this after we read books, cuddled together at bedtime. Pillow talk is my new favorite time of the day. Inhibitions are gone; we are close and warm. The air is palpably sweet and ripe like before a good summer rain. We’re one in a semi-dark room, shadows cast by a night light and I’m falling in love with him over and over again, each night in a new way as he changes, grows, asks questions, shows himself to me.

I smiled and said “Yes, sweetie. I had toys.”

“Like Spiderman?”

“I didn’t have Spiderman but I had dolls and a doll house. I had blocks. Oh, and I had a little oven that made tiny cakes. Real cakes.”

“I want to make tiny cakes, Mom. I want that oven.” I want that oven again too; my Easy Bake Oven—a truly prized possession.

As we talk I stumble, struggling to remember. But he is patient. He is still against me, thumb poised to go back in his mouth after he finishes talking, blanket in hand, stuffed elephant snuggled against his shoulder. And it helps me to remember, the stillness of being with him, watching him, fascinated by his interest.

“I had a quilt,” I tell him. “A blanket like yours that I slept with and it always cheered me up when I was sad.” I’d forgotten about that quilt but can now literally feel the cool weight of it against my body. I buried that quilt with my cat Dante. He died three weeks before my first child was born.

My older son asks me questions too but it’s very different. They are so different, my boys. I have spent so much (good) energy on my older son, getting to know him, watching him as his personality sharpens, that I am now in awe of the process happening in my younger boy—almost as if I forgot it would. At just over four years old, he is becoming himself in a new and beautiful way. 

Sometimes the thought of putting my kids to bed is daunting. By the time I get to 7:30 I am so drained I cannot imagine giving another ounce of myself. And then they surprise me. It is they who do the giving. It is my four year old who, completely unbidden, said as I tucked him in one night, “Momma, I love ya’ love ya’ love ya’.” And that has become our new catch phrase. It is my seven year old who wants to cuddle every night and who is so tall that I end up with my head on his chest as we settle in to sleep. “I just love you so much, Mom and I love to cuddle with you,” he routinely says to me. “I’m so happy.”

My younger boy and I have talked a lot these past few nights. I told him about the different cats I had growing up and tried to explain why he couldn’t meet them. He asked where I lived and went to school and when I said “Philadelphia.” He said, “That’s far far away,” trying to fit me in his world today and now, to imagine me doing the things that he does.

So now when I struggle to get them motivated to brush teeth, do PJs, get moving for cryin’ out loud, I will think ahead just a few minutes to the ultimate gift I am about to get. The gift they will give me of love, curiosity, thanks, love, appreciation, memory, joy, and oh, did I mention it already—love?


  1. Chihana Schiffer says:

    Amen sister. I totally relate to all that you shared here Jenny. I too am a mom of young boys (4,3) and amazed everyday of the pearls they give you in the midst of the hustle and bustle. I am thoroughly exhausted by bedtime but love to snuggle and talk with my stinkers!


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