There were always sounds in the night, and my mother could not sleep. I would hear her down below me, moving from the front windows to the back windows, checking the street, checking the alley, looking for lights that were on that should not have been on, listening for footfalls that should not have been there.
Still too young to run in the darkness I slid deeper and deeper into the tiny space at the edge of the attic's eaves, rolled tighter and tighter into the thick wool of blankets, wrapped my arms around my head, and imagined I was in a berth on a sailing ship escaping west to the lands beyond the sea.
At dawn I would come down the stairs, tired and aching and disappointed that I had not reached a distant port. And she would just smile, and ruffle my hair, and put the bowl of thick porridge and sweet butter on the table for me as she drank her coffee.
Day by day, month by month, year by year, her smile grew thinner, and much less easy, but she would never let it fade completely away.
copyright 2006 by Ira Socol