E. and I, in the kitchen, baking apple loaf. E. on his chair next to me at the counter, holding his wooden spoon, carefully smoothing out the top of the loaf once I had poured the batter into the pan, then dipping his spoon into the batter to see if it tasted as good as it looked.
Later that morning:
At the drop-in centre, during circle time. E. resolutely refusing to sit in the circle, overwhelmed by the twenty-seven (!) other children and their caregivers. Wriggling free of me, free of the leader, climbing up the staggered rows of seating at the back of the room until he could tuck himself in between two benches along the windows. There he sat, cuddling his bunny, watching intently and signing “more” every time a song ended.
E. and I in the back yard, raking leaves. E. putting leaves carefully, deliberately into the bucket I’d set out for him and then pointing at it when he was ready for me to empty the bucket into the paper yard waste bag. E. throwing his blue ball around. E. struggling manfully to control the adult-sized rake. The fallen leaves, golden and bronze, dappling the lawn. Sun and shadow playing on his face.
Later that afternoon:
E. taking his little red car for a walk down the street in the late afternoon sunshine, an autumn day so warm and golden it makes me feel like purring as though I were a smugly contented cat. E. stopping in the shadow of the giant maple tree to select fallen leaves and line them up along the stone wall that borders our neighbour’s yard. This one bright scarlet, this one tinted with yellow. This one burnished orange, this one cut through with golden veins. E. chooses each one with deliberate thought, offers them to me for appraisal. When the breeze stirs it ruffles the hair on the back of his head and I reach out, each time, to touch him.
E., heavy with approaching sleep, safe in my arms as we rock back and forth and I croon lullabies in his ear. His thumb in his mouth, his bunny tucked up to his chest, his head on my shoulder, his body and legs spilling down my chest and over my legs. His body is still at last, so busy during the day, a child of perpetual motion, and utterly empty now of tension. I sing the final verse and he gives a sigh and nuzzles closer to me.
E. staggering into the kitchen repeating “Go, go, go”, struggling under the weight and size of Car and Trucks and Things that Go, opened and held precariously by the middle pages. Sitting on the couch pressed up against me, looking for Goldbug when I say, “I think he’s in the ambulance” and pointing with great satisfaction, saying, “Dere!”, when he locates him. Wriggling down from the couch to go and find his tractor to show me that it matches the tractor on another page.
E. and I, dancing to Great Big Sea, E. held in my arms as I two-step and twirl with abandon. A slower song begins and E. tucks his head in under my neck, burrows into my shoulder, and cuddles close, popping up only to sign “more” as each song fades out. It is so unlike him, to cuddle and snuggle during the day, that I find myself holding my breath, fearful that I might disturb him, disrupt this moment. I have a sudden flash of memory- of dancing in the kitchen with E. to Lullaby Baby U2 in the first weeks of his life, waiting for his father to come home from work. It is a struggle to keep the tears from falling as I realize how far I have come as a mother, and how much further E. will still grow away from me.
E., standing by the cupboards, weeping in outrage because I have told him we’re not going to clean any more baseboards now but are going to make lunch instead. Incensed that his compromise position of a spot of vacuuming was also rejected. Hot tears streak his cheeks. I start making lunch and he takes a deep breath, steadies himself, and then potters in to the kitchen to see if he might be able to undertake some quality control on the cheese before lunch is officially served.
This is a good life.