The Good-Night Kiss

The Good-Night Kiss

From Chicken Soup for Every Mom's Soul

The Good-Night Kiss

Four feet. Just forty-eight inches. But it might as well have been the Grand Canyon for all the difficulty my mother had in crossing that gap—the space between my little sister’s bed and mine. Each night I watched from my bed as my mother tucked in my little sister to go to sleep. I patiently waited for her to walk over to tuck me in and give me a good-night kiss. But she never did. I suppose she must have done so when I was younger, but I couldn’t remember it. I was seven now, a big girl—apparently too big for bedtime rituals. Why or when my mother stopped, I couldn’t remember. All I knew was that she tucked my little sister in each night, walked past my bed to the door, and, before she turned out the light, turned and said, “Good night.”

At school the Sisters said that whatever you ask God for at your First Holy Communion you will surely get. We were supposed to think very carefully over this, but I didn’t have to think too long to know what I was going to pray for. This was the perfect time to ask Jesus to make my mother tuck me in and kiss me good night.

The day of my First Communion drew to a close. That night, as I hung up my communion dress and got ready for bed, butterflies danced in my stomach. I knew in my heart that I was about to get the best gift of the day. When I climbed into bed, I pulled the blankets up around me, but not all the way up. I wanted to leave some for my mother to pull up. The nightly ritual began. My mother put my sister to bed, tucking the blankets around her and kissing her good night. She stood up. She walked past my bed to the doorway. She started to say, “Good night,” but then she stopped. I held my breath. This was the moment. “This was a beautiful day,” she said softly. And then she said good night and turned off the light.

I quietly cried myself to sleep.

Day after day, I waited for that prayer to be answered, but it never was. My mother’s actions taught me that sometimes God answers “no,” and though I never knew why my mother couldn’t cross that small space to kiss me good night, I eventually came to accept it.

Deep down, though, I never forgot. When I grew up and became a mother myself, I vowed that my children would always know that they were loved. Hugs and kisses were freely given in our home.

In the evening, after tucking the children in their beds upstairs, I usually went back downstairs and dozed off on the couch in the living room. My husband worked the night shift, and as a young mother, I felt safer sleeping downstairs. One night—it must have been after midnight— I was wakened by the sound of footsteps coming down the stairs. At first the footsteps were loud, and then they suddenly stopped. Whoever it was had seen me.

Finally! Now I would find out just which of my children was raiding the cookie jar during the night. No more waking to be greeted by crumbs all over the kitchen table and blank, innocent looks, in response to my accusations. Tonight the culprit would be caught!

I didn’t move, pretending to be asleep, and waited for the footsteps to resume. When they did, they were ever so gentle on each step so as not to wake me. But they were not coming down toward me anymore. They were retreating back upstairs to the bedroom. I heard a little scurrying above, then quiet footsteps again, almost imperceptible, slowly tiptoeing back down the stairs.

The steps softly came close to me, then stopped. They did not continue on into the kitchen. Smart child, this one, I thought, wants to make sure I’m really asleep. Well, I was up to the challenge. I didn’t move a hair’s breadth. I continued to breathe deeply as if I were fast asleep. I wasn’t about to play my hand too soon. I was going to catch this cookie thief in the act. I was already preparing my lecture.

Suddenly, I felt a heaviness settle on me. I didn’t move even though it caught me off guard. What was it? Then I realized that this child was putting a blanket over me.

Ever so carefully, so as not to wake me, the child covered my feet, then my arms, and finally, with the utmost care, my back. Little hands briefly touched the back of my neck and then the child bent down and, soft as a feather, gave me a loving good-night kiss.

The footsteps retreated—not to the kitchen, but back upstairs. As I cautiously looked to see who it was who had covered me, I was glad that my youngest daughter, Patricia, didn’t look back from the staircase. She would have seen her mother with tears streaming down her face.

God did give me what I asked for at my First Holy Communion. Maybe he took a little while, and maybe he didn’t answer my prayer in the way I expected, but I was satisfied. Even though my mother hadn’t known how to cross that gaping four-foot space to kiss me good night, somehow my children had learned how.

Georgette Symonds

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