“Everyone in our tribe had two names, the real one which was secret and was seldom used, and one which was common, for if people use your secret name it becomes worn out and loses its magic.” ―
The old, heavy, wooden door creaks open. I don’t move. I don’t open my eyes.
Tiny feet gracefully skate across the hardwood floor in footed pajamas as they’ve done countless times before. I feel her warm breath on my face and catch a hint of fabric softener and shampoo from last night’s bath. I remain in character – lifeless.
She reaches out with her chubby fingers, gently touching my cheek and sliding her hand down my face, repeating the motion a second and a third time. I break, holding back a smile, and squint through the darkness. 4:12.
“Mama. Hungry. Up.”
I pause to enjoy the early morning moment before rolling over away from her. I tug at the covers, push my husband’s cold feet away, and smile, out of her view.
“It’s still nighttime, Hannah. Go back to bed.”
Hannah: Hebrew name (Channah) meaning “favour, grace.”
Alaska: Aleut word Alaxsxaq orAlyeska meaning “mainland” (literally, “the object toward which the action of the sea is directed”), “great land,” “beauty.”
She touches my hair, trying for another response.
I lie motionless. I could use another hour of sleep. Or two.
Conceding defeat, she moves on to the next tactic, maneuvering herself into our bed, one leg up and then the other, pulling, struggling, then highjacking the quilt. She squirms a bit and snuggles in beside me.
“Love you, mama.”
I roll back over toward her, stare into her big, dark brown eyes, and smile. I run my fingers through her hair and down the side of her rosy, chubby cheek, as she had earlier done to me. I gently close her eyes and continue to caress her face until her breathing slows. Over her eyes, down her cheek, again and again and again, slower and softer each time.
And then tranquility arrives as she drifts off to fantasyland.
My sleeping beauty.
“I love you, too, Hannah … Alaska.”