I am engrossed in soapy dishes at the sink, my back is turned from the rest of the quiet house when I think I hear something, someone talking. Did I leave the TV on upstairs I wonder? I pause, my hands hover above water and I shake off a little uncertain fear inside my stomach. Halted in mid-air, I listen.
But, it’s quiet again.
I shake my head, shrug and hit the suds once more scrubbing a pan with vigor.
“Mom, where did you put my new jeans?” says a deep voice directly behind me.
I nearly pass out. My hands fly like a bird about to take flight, or maybe lay an egg. With dripping hands, I grab the edge of the counter and clutch at my chest. My shriek is so loud its decibels seem to fall around us reverberating inside the once quiet house.
How in the world did that happen?
I have a man-voice son. One minute he’s a baby crying in the house, a predictable little whiner with peanut butter on his chin, and now he sneaks up on me and talks with a deep voice like Jack the Ripper.
With one hand still on my heart, I turn slowly, holding in the words that come to my lips. Anger is exploding like a startled geyser inside of me. Eye level with his shoulders, broad man-shoulders, I let my gaze travel higher and higher to meet my son’s eyes. My head tilts back and I’m aware he’s got at least a foot on me, and I begin to breathe again.
A deep throated laugh from somewhere in that massive chest rumbles into my kitchen. The sound is incongruous with the little boy whose diapers I changed, whose boo-boos I kissed, and from whom I chased away under-the-bed monsters.
“Man Mom, you jumped. Did I scare you?” He squeaks, part bass and part soprano. He’s laughing now almost doubled over.
I think longingly of the days when a little pinch on the shoulder was effective behavioral control. Now I’d have to climb on the little kitchen stool to reach it.
And I wonder, who is this man in my house.
He laughs so hard it sounds like a scratchy squeak of a violin bow against strings.
Then with an enduring little boy gesture, he spreads his long arms and pulls me into a hug. It is the same tender hug that used to encircle my knees and squeeze. My cheek is smashed against his hard chest, and I melt at the sound of his heart beating in my ear. For just a moment I picture him lying in my arms wrapped in a blue blanket next to my own heart.
He pats my back comfortingly.
“I didn’t mean to scare you. You ok?” he asks.
I nod, smiling now. I’m cradled against this son that I love with all my heart who talks like an almost man. My arms encircle his sturdy waist. It’s a good place.
I breathe in the moment. And that’s when it happens. I smell him. My nose is much closer in proximity to his armpit than I would have wished normally. But, he smells good, he actually smells good. Really good, just showered-deodorant-and-cologne kind of good.
Wasn’t it yesterday I waged a battle against locker-room socks, underwear and sweat smells emanating from the pores of his pre-teen body? I pull back with wonder.
“You showered,” I say.
He looks at me as if I’ve lost something, as if age crept up on me and I am completely out of touch.
“Well, yah, of course. You don’t want me to stink, do you?” His voice squeaks a high note on “stink.” It adds emphasis along with incredulity.
Who is this man in my house?
He didn’t live here just one blink ago when water was anathema and bathing was akin to eating raw liver. He wasn’t around when excavators dug in the sand and Spiderman climbed my refrigerator. He didn’t live here when “Mom, come wipe me,” called loudly in the middle of cooking supper. But, suddenly, he stands in my kitchen, tall, broad and oh, so like his father.
And then it comes to me that yes, this man may need some getting used to, but he has been here from the first kick inside me, from tiny movement’s feather touch against my abdomen, he’s my boy. From the cradling of his little head when the nurse brought his birth-stained little body into my arms, he’s my son. From the first time his daddy laid eyes on him and smiled a crooked silly smile over his little head, he’s our boy. With the first hair sprouting on his chin to car keys in his hand, his very essence is a wonder.
This is our son, the same one we coaxed to smile with dancing stuffed animals and ridiculous baby talk. He is the toddler once on our laps, smelling our breath and pronouncing it, “bad.” His package is changing, his mind maturing, but his being is still the marvel of him.
Someday, I think, resting again my cheek on his chest, when he is my age, and I am old, he will still be my boy. He will wear the same unique grin. I will know his laughter apart from all others. His blue eyes will twinkle his twinkle.
Someday he will open his arms wide. His big hand will cradle my gray head against his broad chest, because he is my boy and I will still be his mamma.
He grins his unique turned-up-at-the-corners smile, looks down at me, and with a voice hoarse with young man-hood asks, “Wachya thinkin’, Momma?”
“I think I’m going to like getting used to this man in my house,” I say.
Of Course You Would
Sylvia Schroeder serves as Women’s Care Coordinator at Avant Ministries. Mom to four, grandma to 13, and wife to her one and only love, she enjoys writing about all of them. Find her blog at When the House is Quiet. Like her Facebook page or follow her on twitter.