As a child, there was a window of time when it was just my mother and me, a time when I was certain that I was the most important person in the world.
Many nights, when neither of us could bear the thought of sleeping alone, we pulled the cushions off the black pleather sofa, one by one, stacked them against the wall, and pulled the foldaway bed from the sofa’s depths. Together, we would make the bed up with fresh sheets and blankets, piling on layer after layer of comfort.
We popped popcorn in one of those hot air poppers where the chunks of golden butter melted so slowly and, drop by drop, slipped through the golden dome over the kernels as they popped. We would set out our Tupperware bowls, fill them with popcorn, and climb into our temporary bed.
We wore matching nightgowns, nightgowns that I am certain my mother paid for by neglecting a bill or by dipping into what little emergency funds we had. They were palest, cotton candy pink polyester with white lace trim. I felt beautiful, dressed in a miniature version of my mother’s nightgown.
In that nightgown, I was important and visible…the center of my mother’s world. As much as she was there to comfort and cocoon me, I was there to bring her solace and purpose.
There are few better feelings than that…to know that you are the most important thing in someone else’s world.
We would settle in and watch shows that, at six years old, I could not have understood: Maude, The Odd Couple, and Love, American Style. I struggled to stay awake, to savor every moment with my mother, but my hand would soon go limp in hers as I drifted off to sleep.
There, in our nest of blankets and popcorn, in the flickering light of the television, I was safe, a feeling that was so elusive and shifting as a child. A feeling that as soon as I held in my hand, slipped away, at even the slightest bit of upheaval.
I soon outgrew that nightgown, but insisted that I could still wear it. The elastic at the cuff cut into my skin and when I slid my finger beneath it to readjust it, the grooves in my skin remained.
By then, money was even more scarce and there was no way possible for my mother to splurge again. That nightgown stayed in my bureau for years. I would take it out and remember those nights on the pullout sofa with my mother.
Those nights, in my pink nightgown, with my beautiful mother, are, beyond compare, the happiest memories of my childhood.
Simple, yet important.
There in my nightgown.
Important. Visible. Safe.