P, Phil and I go for a walk down the nature trail. P is the leader, leads us down gravelly slopes, commands us to listen to the trees. We look at dog prints in the dirt, white bark, coloured leaves. At the labyrinth, we walk past each other, P hums, can’t trust the path. We swing her between us, high over safari ant rivers. She notices the redness of leaves.

This morning I am in a hurry, packing snacks and cookies for J’s class, needing to meet friends for French conversation. When I hurry, I am tense, quick to judge, frustrated with the slowness of the people around me. The milk is sour. J is slow with her violin. P draws pictures of flags. M struggles with her shoelaces. Phil forgives my impatience, kisses my cheek, says he (still) loves me.

Yesterday when I went to look for P, I found her at the neighbour’s swingset. She was alone, swinging. She reached her feet high above her head, leaned back, grinned the entire time. I think she was talking to someone. Or singing. Without warning, there were tears on my cheeks, surprised by the gladness of being. Some people never witness that much life in all their years. I felt full of enough love for a lifetime.

When J comes home for lunch, she stops outside the front door, hides by the pillar. When I find her she is crying silent face-contorting tears. She says she had run home. Run, when the rule was not to run. She cries for 30 minutes, the guilt too heavy. After lunch we walk to her classroom. She apologizes to her teacher, is forgiven, beams through tears and skips to the playground.

M wakes early, hair full around her face, pink flannel pajama bottoms, She moves slowly down the hall, finds her place at the table and begins to draw. Her drawings are small, detailed, labelled with misspelled words, the serious work of creating. The air is still blue before morning.

P rides a bike for the first time. We are all there, walking around her across the parking lot. The first time she pedals on her own, she begins giggling, giddy with freedom and fear. We laugh, run, cheer her over speedbumps. Her bike is red and worn. She never stops smiling.

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