The boy didn’t want to go to sleep.

He wanted Kel to read him his book–The Very Hungry Caterpillar for those of you playing along at home–and when he realized it was my turn to read to him before bed, his eyes welled up with tears. He drug out his little beanbag chair into the hall, pulling it up to Kel’s feet as if it were an offering, a way of begging into her arms for a nighttime story.

We compromised. (Julia, in her own way, let it be known she expected Mommy to read to her. I was chopped liver at that point, I guess.) Kel read Caterpillar to them both, one tucked on each side on their beanbag chairs, and I relaxed in the rocker in Thomas’s room, listening to their voices, to the cold rain drumming the rooftop.

T came back into the room afterward, still not entirely sure about letting me read to him, but soon enough we were finishing our third book (Scat Cat), and he still wanted another one.

They’d had baths this evening. His skin was soft, his hair still a touch damp. “Sorry, buddy,” I said, my voice a bit hoarse from the cold I’m nursing along, “that was the last one. Time for bed.”

He cried a little and negotiated one last kiss from Mommy, which turned into a leap into her arms. She could deal with it, I guessed, and went in to give Jules a kiss goodnight. The two of us snuggled in the darkness, the rain really coming down at that point, the wind blowing through what’s left of the leaves. A muffled cry permeated through the wall she shares with Thomas’s room, escalating in noise when Kel opened the door to leave, then whisking to its original, muffled volume.

After I tucked Julia in, Kel and I listened to Thomas’s slow weeping, the kind that breaks your heart because it’s clear he’s not crying because something’s wrong or he’s angry or injured or frustrated. Rather, it was that distinct sound of sadness, the tenor of grave disappointment.

I changed out of the scratchy sweater I’d been wearing all day, pulling on a plain, gray sweatshirt. Then I went in to find him, standing, his head laid down on his hands on the rail of his crib. He barely moved when I pulled him up and held him.

Then he nuzzled his head on my shoulder, and we were cheek to cheek, his tears wetting my face, his halting breath in my ear, and I clasped him tight, it’s okay son, and the moment was poetry, bouncing up and down in the dark room, his little arm patting against the back of my neck, the quick breaths as he caught himself from crying.

This boy in his footie pajamas fills my heart with heat and fire.

Five or ten minutes later, and he’s ready for me to put him down. He still wasn’t ready for sleep, but something had filled up his chest, too, and he would be okay. I made a cup of tea and listened to him babble over the monitor, knowing I had to come down here to the office to see if I could make the right words to talk about this sonnet of a night, this longitudinal sketch of another night in a line of something like 700, a number so large it startles me. And Julia’s well over a thousand….

That’ll have to be for another night. One moment at a time.