P sits beside me on the couch, playing Princess Uno against herself. At the end of a round she claps and cheers, “I won!” She sips lukewarm peppermint tea, wears tights with pink hearts. Her ankles are covered with the scabs of scratched mosquito bites. She tells me she wishes she had three arms and hands so that she could carry snacks and drinks while she climbs things.

M fiddles fast and intricate melodies, amazes me with her talent as I lie in bed in the other room. But J comes to sit and the edge of the bed and announces that there are tears on M’s cheeks as she plays. Later when I ask about it, M smiles, shakes her head, will not allow us into her private sadness.

When I discover that P has cut crooked squares into all of my favourite pieces of origami paper, I’m furious, scold her loudly, bring her and her compassionate sisters to tears. Days later I see the pile of papers still spread across the guest room bed, brightly coloured patterns, small flowers and stripes. I gather the scraps together, snipped in a moment of five year old creativity, and bring them to the table. The girls and I arrange the pieces into small paper quilt squares, glue them onto a ribbon. I hang the garland above the kitchen sink, smile at the way art redeems us.

J’s arms are full- a blue kikoi, a journal, a pen, her Spanish fan. She asks if she can go into the trees to write for a while. I watch her go, wonder about her fan, am jealous of her time with the trees.

M listens to the Les Miserables soundtrack, sings along, dances with solemn concentration, plays the parts with the worst words over and over.

P writes love notes to her family on small pieces of paper. “I Love Ths Notbk”. Apologizes for being disobedient: “Soi Mom”. I find her squares of communication under the table, in my pockets, wish this stage could last longer than it will.

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