M, eyes still blurry in red pajamas bursts into tears over her baked oatmeal. Through tired sobs she announces that she doesn’t want to go to school, that she wants to stay home to read all day. This after only one and a half days of school. I am at a loss, my child who loves all things structured and authoritative. Of whom I’ve been bragging that she was created for school, falling to pieces at the thought of the dewy walk up the hill. J isn’t so articulate, but her actions are masterful soliloquies. Unwilling to change, to do chores, to brush her hair. Frowning with each step at my increasingly impatient attempts at directing her towards life in first grade.
After school they run to my arms, beaming and scruffy. J skips down the hill, walks imaginary tightropes, gushes about her art teacher. But memories fade fast, soon they complain again, ready to drop out of academia forever in favour of a life of playmobil and novels on the porch. Really, who can blame them.
Before bed, the girls and I cuddle on my bed, laugh about peers and kiss each other’s necks. Our limbs tangled, pushed, pulled, we analyze mean kids and debate recess. This pile of wriggling wonderful bodies that are my children.
We play tag. Redlight greenlight. The sun sets behind banana trees, Phil watches from the supper table on the porch. The girls cry when they are caught moving after the light turns red, fall to the ground when their laughter threatens to wet their pants. We shriek and dance out of reach and laugh at the freedom of backyard games with the people who love us most.
Phil reads a book about Naomi on the couch, drinks gin and bitter lemon, squeezes limes. He has no tormentors, no internal jury deeming him unworthy. His life is full and solid like the trees by water the sages promised we may some day be.