In the morning she wakes before me, popping upright in bed. Her first words are, as always, "Where's Daddy? Where's BubTar?" It is the way she makes sense of the day. If Daddy and BubTar are home, it is the weekend or a rare vacation, if they are gone, it is a school day. I mumble in from my semi-conscious state, "Daddy is at work. BubTar is at school." She starts to whine, but I cushion the blow quickly by saying, "That means you get to go to school today, too! Won't that be fun?" Her tune changes, "Oh yes, that will be fun, I will get to see my friends and my teacher and every-fing! Let's get out of bed! Let's go now, Mommy, let's go." I beg her, "Please, let's just lay here for a minute, let Mommy's eyes open a little." She tosses herself back onto the pillow, "Okay, let's wait." She watches me closely, I imagine, because as soon as I pry one of my sleepy eyes open in a half-squint, she is cheering, "You're doing it, Mommy! You're doing it! You're opening your eyes! Now blink like THIS. YAY MOMMY!" Still squinting I reach over and pull her to me, she giggles all the way. I kiss her forehead and cheeks and she exclaims, "Do it again. Kiss me on my eyes! Kiss me on my chin! Kiss me faster! You're so silly, Mommy." She laughs and I smile a sleepy smile. She collapses next to me and breathe her in and close my eyes. She senses my relaxation and prods, "Are your eyes open? Are we ready to go? Let's go, Mommy!" I sit up with a growl and tickle her. She giggles and wiggles. Finally, I pry myself from the warmth of our big bed and we start our day together.
At night I lay with her in bed. She says, "Pull me over there, Mommy, closer!" I grab her pillow and pull it closer to my pillow, so close that the edge is tucked beneath my own. She giggles. "Now hug me!" I wrap my arm around her and she nuzzles her forehead against mine. I brush her hair back and kiss her forehead, her eyelids. I whisper, "I love you. You're my best girl." I run my finger down her little nose. She breathes out, "You're my best mommy." She sighs loudly and wiggles her little body one last time. I lie there in the quiet, listening to the rhythm of her breathing as it slows. I watch her eyelids flutter. I smooth her hair back. I trace the lines of her face with my eyes, committing her silhouette to memory. I kiss her little knuckles, still clenching her blankey. I watch for a response, a reflexive movement, but there is none. I roll away from her slowly, tentatively, I sit up on the edge of the bed, then I stand and scurry swiftly and silently from the room.