“What’s wrong, Mama?” he asks as he climbs onto my lap, a spindly bundle of arms and legs that always manage to sucker-punch an internal organ.
“Oh, I’m just sad,” I tell him, running my fingers through his long dark hair, knowing there are some things that cannot be explained to a five-year-old.
“Did someone hurt your feelings?” he asks, as he stares intently at my face, his wide brown eyes boring holes into the back of my skull.
“No, baby, no one hurt my feelings,” I reply, the truth.
“Did a bad guy come?” he asks, quite seriously as his eyes attempt to puzzle out my expressions.
“No, baby, there are no bad guys here,” I laugh a bit, the tears still pooling in my eyes.
His sister wanders in to notice us on the couch together, and, seeing an opportunity in which she should be occupying the space on my lap, climbs up with a grace I didn’t know could come from my genetics.
“You have a boo-boo, Mama?” she asks, her long lashes open and shut as she, too, studies my face with a stunning intensity.
“Sort of,” I tell her as I kiss her, then her brother, on the forehead. “Sort of.”
“Can I kiss it and make it better?” he asks, looking for any open wounds to put his mouth on.
Before I can respond, she climbs down and runs off. She returns holding a box of Hello Kitty Bandaids.
“Here, Mama,” she says, “I got you a Bandaid – a HELLO KITTY Bandaid – for your boo-boo,” proudly she hands me a single bandaid from her precious collection.
“Thanks, Mimi-Girl,” I say, the tears, once again, falling from my eyes, this time, however, from the incredible sweetness of my children. “A Hello Kitty Bandaid will fix it.”
I allow them both to cover me with Bandaids – every mole, every bump, every scrape now carefully protected from the outside world.
“‘Dere, Mama,” she says proudly. “You’re all better.” She scampers off to find her Lego guys to play with.
My son, however, stays sitting upon my lap, twirling a piece of my hair absentmindedly as he thinks.
“Some boo-boos,” he finally says, “they can’t be fixed with a Bandaid.” He speaks with a wisdom far beyond his years.
“You’re right, my boy,” I say, the tears dotting his hair. “Some boo-boos are in secret spots. Hidden spots.”
“Where you can’t see them, right, Mama?” he asks, without really expecting an answer.
“Yep,” I say. “Some boo-boos are on the heart.”
He looks at me thoughtfully before scampering off to a drawer, where I can hear him rummaging around, looking for something. I turn back to my game of Tiny Tower in the vain hope that my broken heart will soon feel whole again.
He whirls back into the room, a mess of elbows and knees, and clamors back onto my lap, where he elbows me in the sternum, leaving me momentarily breathless.
“Here,” he thrusts a piece of paper into my hands happily. “It’s for you.” He then hugs me so tightly I feel like I might burst and watch as he climbs down off the couch and off to find his sister.
I look down at the paper, curious as to what he would have given me.
Painstakingly, he’d sketched a heart in the center of the page and signed his name in a loopy, scrawling way that only a five-year old can. The tears begin again, but this time, they are happy tears.
He rushes back into the room, his sister and their Lego people in hand.
“See, Mimi? I fixed Mama’s heart.”
And I marvel at them, as they dogpile on top of me, at how I ever got to be so lucky.