When she’s older, I hope my daughter remembers the back scratching.
Actually I hope she remembers all of the wonderful, caring, selfless things I do for her – like make dinner every night, paint her nails, “help” clean her room, take her to playdates, buy her clothes, do her laundry, color pictures, play Go Fish, take her to the ballet. But if she only remembers the back scratching and it makes her smile, that would be a good start.
Most nights I’m the one putting her to bed. We read a book, say prayers, then turn out the light – at which point she immediately asks me to scratch her back. Sometimes she also requests a song or a story, but always the back.
“If I’m very still and very quiet, mommy, will you please scratch my back?” she asks, anticipating the requirements before I can say them and turning her face to the wall so her back is pointing at me.
I’m always exhausted at this point in the night. Ready to be done with bedtime so I can have my own time to write, read, watch TV or (gasp) be with my husband. I don’t actually like doing bedtime because the whole routine just makes me tired.
But I cannot say no to the back scratching request.
When I was a kid, I loved having my back scratched. Okay, I still do. My mom, a pianist, never had long nails, but she had the gentlest touch and the patience of a saint. Sometimes, if I managed to randomly sit close enough to her hand, she would absent-mindedly start scratching my back simply because it was there and that was what she did. It’s a most ordinary and yet most intimate gesture.
One day, if Pippi is lucky enough to have her own exhausting little person to put to bed, I hope she’ll catch a memory of snuggling under her blanket with her soft, small back sticking out. I hope she’ll recall my weary fingertips running circles across her pajamas and her skin, through her fresh-from-the-bath hair.
And I hope she’ll know in that moment that – despite all the times I wasn't what she needed me to be – I have always loved her.