Read To Me

at 11:35 PM

He's lying beside me on the bed, his feet stretching past mine. His hair brushes against my cheek, coarse, and darker than I imagined it would be. Beneath the hem of his basketball shorts his knee is scraped open, a streak of road burn beneath.

"Read, Mom," he says in the voice that's still new to my ears. The deeper voice.

My son is 15, and becoming both more and less familiar to me. His world has widened, its axis shifted. I can see strains of the man he'll one day be, solid and assured. But right now, in the space of night, he's still my boy, and I will read him a story.

Most days, time can trick me into forgetting what it's up to. It races forward and sneaks away, waving a hand over a child's face and transfiguring it in a moment of my distraction. But in the evening, when I read, I am time's master. Each chapter, each page, is a chance to stall its pace.

Only weeks ago, I watched from the car as my son walked away and into the front door of high school.  I snapped photos with my phone from behind, hoping he wouldn't notice. I once thought I'd be a "cool" Mom. I'm not. My kids think I'm strict, and sometimes embarrassing. I never follow the rules of public affection. I hold them tight, and have to bite my lip when I let them go.

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"Read," my son urges, and my memory shoves forward the smaller voice and body  -- the one that smelled like milk and grass and curled beneath my chin, where I could once contain him.

Between my hands is the book my husband gave him last summer. "Lord of the Flies." Inside, there is a message inscribed in ink: "You are Ralph," it says. "Don't forget."

I open the book. The day is gone, but for now he is still my boy, and I will read him a story.

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With a Perspective, I'm Susan Dix Lyons.

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