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Spooky Moon, originally uploaded by rcbodden, Flickr, Creative Commons.

I had just put Bear down to sleep for the night, and closed her door behind me, when she started screaming. At first, I thought that these were her typical, I-don’t-want-to-go-to-bed screams, but they quickly escalated in pitch, so I turned around and went back into her bedroom.

She stopped crying as soon as she saw me. She was hot – a damp hot. In a few minutes, she had soaked through her fleece sleeper, and her hair felt wet with sweat. She sat straight up in her crib looking at me, whimpering and gasping for air.

What is wrong?

She looked at her bedroom window, the blinds closed tightly against the night outside, and pointed. Her whimpering got louder.

Outside? Did you see something that scared you?

She nodded, and I picked her up. She curved her hot little body against mine and closed her eyes. I sat down in her chair and began rocking her.Bear twisted her body in my arms toward the window and pointed again. She wasn’t going to forget whatever had happened, and I felt a little prick of fear inside of me. What if she really did see something? What if someone was outside her window? I decided that I had to be brave, even though my little toddler pointing insistently at her bedroom window was starting to freak me out.

Do you want me to check to make sure nothing is there?

She nodded again. So, from where I sat, I reached over and quickly pulled back the blinds. Nothing. Either nothing was there, or nothing was there now.

See, honey? There isn’t anything there. You’re fine.

I rocked her for a little while longer, and she seemed to relax. I carried her to her crib and began to lay her down amongst her babies. Her eyes popped open. I assured her that I would be right outside her room, and if she needed me, I would be there. I told her not to worry anymore. She closed her eyes again and rubbed her cheek against her blanket.

But, I was still a little worried. When my husband got home, I asked him to go outside to check. He scoffed at my concerns. She saw a light, or a sweet gum ball probably hit the window, he said. Maybe.

Since that night, about twice a week, Bear will start screaming in the middle of the night. I’ll go into her room, and she’ll be sitting up pointing at the window. I’m fairly convinced that nothing is there, but her insistence is starting to spook me. What if she knows something that we don’t?

My time with Bear is in the evening before bed.  No matter whether I spent the day away from her at work or whether I spent the day with her at home, bedtime is our special time together. 

We sit together and rock back and forth in the warm light of her nightlight.  We are both quiet expect for her contented slurps of milk.  She has started reaching for my hand again, almost like she used to when she nursed.  However, now her hand is big enough to actually grasp my own.  She rubs her fingers on my palm and traces her fingertips rhythmically up and down and back and forth.  Sometimes, she wraps her little fingers around my own and holds on.  The gesture feels so intimate, almost as though our bodies were once again connected.

Once she has finished her milk, I scoop her little body into my arms and carry her to bed.  She allows me to lay her down and to pull her blanket up around her.  I am always careful to arrange her babies next to each side of her so she can find them in the night, and then we say a quick bedtime prayer.  We ask God to bless each member of the family, and at the end, I say, “and especially Bear.”  Simultaneously, she inserts “Momma.”  Often, with tears in my eyes and a heart that seems to fill my chest, I will repeat, “and Momma too.”

I carefully kiss her babies, her blanket, and if she insists, the crib.  Then, I direct blown kisses at each cheek and her forward.  If sleep is going to come easy, she will drowsily rub her eyes.  If sleep is going to be elusive, she will chatter and giggle until I leave.

As I close the door, I look back once more, sad at our parting, and say, “Good night, sweet girl.  I love you.”