At supper P is fiddling with the wrought iron chair beside her and it crashes back against the tile. I ask her to pick it up and she begins to whine that it is too heavy and she can’t do it. I am firm, stern. She has to. Immediately her sisters both climb down from their chairs, rush around the table, lift up the chair together. They are kinder than I am. More willing to choose love over principle.
M comes home at lunch with a ziploc bag that holds a juice box and a chocolate chip cookie. The cookie is for her sisters, she has already eaten one. It has not yet dawned on either of the older girls to consider an option besides sharing their school treats with their sisters at home. I have never taught this nor expected it. Everytime they teach me. J saves the half of a chocolate croissant that P and I brought home in a white paper bag. She wants to share it with her dad. I insist she can eat it all, he often has croissants without her. She smiles but shakes her head. It is for sharing. P passes out her birthday gum with a wide smile, keeps forgetting that her sisters can’t have gum at school. Divides one carefully in half for me and Phil.
At the supper table P scoops yoghurt onto shredded cabbage than announces to Phil, “This isn’t true. It is just a thought I have in my head.” Phil smiles at the warning, waits. “I went on an airplane by myself…”
At night after many reminders to go to bed, P walks into our bedroom, then presses her hands to both sides of her disheveled hair “I keep forgetting this isn’t my room!” We laugh, forgive, shake our heads.
P’s babychino has a chocolate smiley face drawn in foam. She announces her beautiful manners. I laugh and make funny faces. The server smiles as she passes us.
M and I page through our new bird book. She checks her list, written with orange marker while driving through the Mara. Barefaced Go Away Bird, Secretary Bird, Starling. She has discovered the startling beauty of birds. I learn from her.
J lies upsidedown on her bed, her eyes droopy. She reaches for my neck, traces her fingers along my skin. “Ask me a question.” I ask what makes her excited. “Trying things for the first time, like swimming class.” I ask her what makes her feel sad. “I said only one question.” I kiss her translucent skin, the place where her hair meets her forehead. When I leave, she sits up, finds a flashlight, reads aloud to herself late into the night.
The girls have built a village in the pile of dirt on the driveway. It has roads, stores, restaurants and a game park, all outlined with rocks and flowers. They drive hotwheels cars over its roads until the sky turns dark. Then they preempt the sadness of its being wrecked by construction workers, by creating an avalanche.
The next day Hibiscus Hill grows in the sandbox. It is filled with a hundred of my carefully tended flowers, but it is so beautiful, as though this is what I grew the flowers for.
Yesterday P and I did yoga together. She followed carefully along with the video on her red yoga mat, then found her way over to mine, brushed my hair as I sat crosslegged, crawled under my downward dog, then did her own, fitting perfectly within the lines of my body.
Phil chases the girls around the living room, grabs them and throws them on the couch. They laugh so hard they can’t breathe. Later he reads them Salman Rushdie, explains the Arabian Nights while they colour pictures of Barbies with coloured pencils.