Lincoln wakes in the night and slips into our room. "Ma," he whispers, standing by the bed and patting my stomach, "I need bed."
"Okay, buddy, let's get you in bed then." He leads me to his bedroom, padding down the hallway in his glow-in-the-dark Cars pajamas. "I need bed," he reminds me as he climbs up on his twin bed. I grab his duvet, vintage airplanes flying across a cloudy sky, and tuck it up over his shoulders. He is small and still there against the big bed. "Goodnight, love," I tell him, and closing his bedroom door, block out the hum of his fan.
Lincoln is back again in a few minutes, and this time I elbow Sam. "Sam, go put your son in bed." Sam groans, rises, and follows Linc down the hall to the chorus of his whispered incantation: "I need bed."
We don't know why he is waking in the night again. Sometimes Lincoln goes through phases where he is up every hour on the hour. When morning comes, Sam and I are red-eyed and fuzzy-headed, but Linc seems no worse for the wear. He greets me with a happy cry of "Ma!" and hugs my leg. I am endlessly enamored with his smallness. I lift him in my arms and chide him for waking us in the night, feeling the muscles in his back flex as he adjusts his weight. He laughs, solicits kisses with puckered lips and eyes squeezed shut. He takes my face in his hands and pulls it to his, pats my hair, and slides down out of my arms.
School starts on Tuesday, and I am suddenly aware of my boys as they are at this moment. I try to take a mental snapshot of their size, of their careless hair and summer tans. I try to memorize them this weekend, looking at every inch of them and feeling the heaviness of knowing this year will pass as quickly as the last and before I blink, it will be summer again and they will be hardly recognizable to me. I try to hold on to them as they are now, at almost five and almost seven, even as they slide from my arms and move away from me.
Nico wakes next, wearing nothing but his Star Wars underwear and his glasses. He is slower to wake, like his mama. He lays on the floor of my closet in the fetal position while I get ready, wrapped tight in his early morning fog until he is ready to be engaged. I ignore him until he emerges, fully hatched. He starts to talk immediately, as if someone has wound the key in his back. He picks up the story he was telling me last night as he went to bed, continuing as if there has been no break.
"Hey mom, who do you think would win in a battle between T-Rex and titanoboa? I think the T-Rex would win, but there are really two theories about this. If titanoboa caught the T-Rex in an ambush, it just might be able to take down the king of dinosaurs." Yesterday, he found a documentary online about a recently discovered prehistoric snake called titanoboa. It is an all consuming obsession now. He mixes direct quotes from the documentary with earnest speculation about the giant snake.
I make pancakes for breakfast, and Nico pauses in his seamless dialog about titanoboa to request "shape pancakes." I drizzle batter onto the griddle: an N and a heart and a snake shape. When he gets his plate, he says, "Nico loves titanoboa! Good one, mom!" We have to tell him to stop talking and eat. He assures us he has time to eat and talk.
Later, we have to go to the store for a few last minute school supplies. The boys sit in the back of the cart together, flipping through a coloring book. I mutter to myself about the mysterious last item on our list that doesn't seem to exist. Stopping in the middle of the aisle, I look around at the other bedraggled, sleep deprived parents trying to find their last minute items and realize I look just like them. It strikes me as funny, so I laugh out loud right there in the aisle, and the other parents look over at me, startled.
Nico is talking all the while, snuggled in the belly of the shopping cart with his brother. "Could it be that a giant alligator was actually a match for titanoboa, or did the enormous serpent only wound the beast and let it escape? A digesting snake is easy prey for a predator."
The man in front of me in line has two dozen coupons, though only half of them seem to work. Nico and Lincoln can feel the near end to our errand are trying to ooze out of the cart. I tell Lincoln to sit down at least thirty times while we wait for the man to sort out his coupons. Nico never stops telling everyone and no one about titanoboa.
Back at home, I sit down at the computer, and Linc comes over to me, urgently repeating something I can't quite make out. "Uh uh buh buh," he tells me, "Uh uh buh buh." Pointing to the computer, he repeats the message and signs help. "Help what?" I ask him. "Want uh uh buh buh," he says, adamant, pointing at the screen.
"Good grief," I sigh, "Are you saying titanoboa?"
"Yeeeeaaah! Want uh uh buh buh! Yeeeah!" He raises his arms in glee and then tries to elbow me out of the seat. Resigned, I move out of the chair and call, "Nico, can you find that video for your brother? He's asking for titanoboa." And together, they lean in to watch the documentary one more time.
I watch them and snap a picture, and shake my head and sigh at their strangeness. And wish I could save them forever as they are right now, at this moment. I try, again, to memorize them, chest heaving with thanks for their lives and their health and their perfect, glossy innocence.
To another beautiful year, my sweet boys. May the world be yours.