We both stirred as her little voice echoed down the hall,
“D’stairs. D’stairs, up mommy?”
Sean slipped from our bed and tiptoed out of our room and into the thick pre-dawn shadows. I heard the ribbons on their door rustle and could feel her smile as he crept closer to her crib.
“Ah. Daddy. Mama?” Her voice a delicious rasp.
“Sweetie,” so much pride and love wrapped up in seven little letters, my heart raced.
I watched their shadow as he carried her to me, laying her beside me, where she quickly buried her face in the hollow between my chin and neck.
“Mmm, cuddle, mama. Me cuddling you,” she declared proudly.
I sighed, waves of wholeness rippling through me as the last vestiges of loss slipped away, burrowing in the weave of flannel beneath me, stowed for another time.
I let myself sink deep within the moment, the weight of the sheets and blankets upon my belly solid next to the flutter of layers beside me, her bottom wiggling to and fro. Sean soon slept, his breathing even and reassuring, cradling me. After a time Avery turned her river’s edge eyes on me and made a silent plea to move downstairs.
Her body pressed against mine as I gingerly led us down. She nodded as I whispered in her ear that we would cuddle. We sat almost as one beneath the creamy throw, our faces touching, smiles blossoming beneath tousled hair. We sat in the stillness, the only sound the gentle buzz and hum of warm air through the register beside us.
It was still dark when we heard it, Avery’s head shot up and the smile on her face held the kind of beauty and delight most people wait a lifetime to see. It came again.
“What’s that?” I asked her with a wink.
Her mouth formed a perfect oval and her eyes danced as she looked at me, head cocked toward the second floor. When the sound chimed a third time she kicked her legs, threw back her head and squealed, “Bwy-uh. S’Bwy-uh!”
I laughed and nodded, calling to Briar to join us. As her head, all golden curls and wispy kinks, poked through the door Avery bucked again, “Bwy-uh came!” She clambered up on the sofa and we sat tight against each other, wrapping the blanket round to shield the cold and fortify our union.
It wasn’t long before Sean joined us and Briar slipped between his arms, her face beneath his a soft reflection; wide blue eyes and plump lips. I lowered my head and buried my face in Avery’s hair, inordinately happy to have my family together in this moment, before the rush of getting ready or the squawk of morning news. Just us.
It was inevitable that the world would wake, the cat began pacing to be let out, the dog making her rounds, bumping hands with her head for a morning scratch, the sound of a not-too distant plow shooshing and clanging over ice. I tried not too wince as I allowed the moment to pass, permitting the routine to usher away the rare.
“Shh!” And then, “Shhhh, wait a minute guys!”
It was Briar, breathless and emphatic.
“What is it, honey?” I asked.
“You guys, look. Listen! It’s getting to be morning time!” And in that exclaim, as she saw the dawn come, she renewed my faith that even in the ordinary there can be profound magic.