I sit in the chair by the window, sunlight warming my shoulder, my legs tucked beneath me, while Avery sleeps in my lap. Sean has gone upstairs to get Briar who has been calling out theatrically pronouncing herself ready to get out of bed for a few minutes. I love listening to them.
“Hey Briar. Good morning my big girl.”
“I just woked up, Dad. I waked myself up.”
“I know. I heard you talking so I came upstairs.”
“I was talking when I woke myself up. I’n wearing a kitty nightgown, I’n wearing it, it’s mines.”
“I see that. I love your kitty nightgown.”
“Me too. Hold me Dad.”
“Ooh, my pillow. I need mine pillow.”
“Ok. Let’s get your pillow beautiful girl.”
I smile as Sean steps down the hallway, stopping in front of the window to let Briar peek around the gauzy drapes. Avery stirs and I slip my fingertips through the tendrils along her neck, these curls are like meringue, peaking this way and that, little waves of sweetness along a smooth expanse of apricot neckline. I hear the stairs creak, they are whispering.
“Shhh. Mom got Avery down for a nap.”
“Ehshhhht, Avery is’a sleepin.”
“That’s right. Say hi mom.”
“Hi Mom. Hi Avery. Shhhtch, she’s sleepin’.”
They stand at in the doorway at the foot of the stairs. Each time my breath catches. Each morning that he brings Briar down those stairs I hear the voices of so many.
“It’s a blur.”
“I cannot believe she’s 10.”
A halo of golden curls frame an ever changing face. Her cheeks less round, her jaw line sharper. Some mornings her eyes bore through me, icy blue with rings of white and charcoal. Her lips. Such lush, red lips. Where did those lips come from?
“Some yip stick on mine yips, mommy?”
Lately she seems to be moving forward at a pace I can’t possibly hope to keep up with, yet it’s a sort of slow motion. I have managed to keep a feather light grasp on being conscious of the changes. She flit between toddler and teen before my eyes. One moment she’s gawky legs and pot belly, the next she is lithe and feminine, a radiant face smudged with dirt and cream cheese. There are days she sidles up alongside me reverently, other times she is barely tolerant of my need for closeness or conversation.
“Mommy can I sit next to you?”
“Sure honey, here you can sit in the crook of my legs.”
“Can I sit next to you?”
“Here, want to sit right her on my–“
“Next to you, Mommy. Wants to be next to you not in yours lap.”
Our conversations mature nearly by the minute as she registers the little things she needs to do.
“Oh my gosh, I almost got for to have a drink of water.”
“Here you go.”
“Tank you Dad. I almost forgot to drink it.”
Sometimes I worry that I spend too many moments wondering about the girl she is becoming, the woman she might be. I mourn the little girl who is not yet gone, like tears eked out during a movie because it’s how you are ought to react. Her movements and her voice lull me into a trance that seems to lead inevitably to losing her to life. First kisses and job interviews. Conferences and far away places.
Tonight we went for a run and ended with a visit to the ducks at the pond. Sean sat with Briar between his legs, Avery and I stood nearby. I was nuzzling her neck and holding her hand as she used her other hand to pat my shoulder between kisses. Sean was whispering in Briar’s ear. She cocked her head and reclined a bit, her hand absentmindedly stroked Sean’s knee. They were so many dreams and hopes come to life. It was a perfect moment. There was no camera. No tears. There was no rushing or shhing. No forced cuddling or halfhearted coloring. It was simply four people, a family, being together. Briar at 2.5, Avery just shy of a year. It was a moment that I will hold onto forever, a reflection of today for all the days to come.