Have you ever tried to tell your children
how much you love them?*
Sometimes, when the stars are high in the navy sky
and a peaceful breeze is whispering in my children’s rooms, I do.*
The first attempt generally begins
In language common to any child old enough to cradle a hand of cards
and wise enough to know how to sneak the Old Maid to their little sister:
“I love you more than a thousand midnights on the moon.”
“I love you deeper than a featherbed caught in a quicksand lake.”
“I love you as big as a banana sucking on helium.”*
The kids never win these competitions.
They giggle, then give up, always content to leave me victorious.
And, leave me, they do.
Asking for blanket to be tucked around chin.
Answering the evening invitation from feather lashes
waving them into dreamland.*
Tucked into the corner of their twin-sized beds, head resting on hand,
I watch as smiling cheeks slacken–then soften–into cherubic rounds.
I realize winning the bedtime contest of words wasn’t enough.
They can’t possibly know how much
I love them.*
So, I try again in the morning with: The Squish.
It’s always accompanied with wine-pressed words:
My arms squash around warm breakfast in bellies,
snuggle tightly the carefully buttoned school clothes.
I press fingers to home-cut hair,
Pink nails I clipped on Sunday afternoon.
My lips kiss their fresh-bathed faces, Q-tipped ears.*
The kids often eye-roll through these sessions.
They squirm until they leave my consuming grasp.
And, leave me they do.
Asking to hold my hand as we walk out the door.
Answering the taskmaster bell which rings in the new school year.*
Walking the quiet path home, fingers still warm from their little hands, I realize
No matter what they learn in first or fourth grade
No matter how good their teachers try
They’ll never know how much
I love them.*
Until they try tucking to sleep,
watching backpacks bob away to school,
waiting with a plate of warm cookies to welcome home
their own children
And then, try to tell them how much.*