J dresses like a pirate for a school party, wears a black plastic eye patch, big belt buckle, blue jelly shoes. After school she changes into a shimmering leotard for her ballet class, asks if she can keep the pirate bandana wrapped around her hair.

A beetle as long as my pinky finger lies on its back on the tile floor, black legs wriggling, reaching. M and P rush toward it like concerned mothers, peer closely. M picks it up with gentleness, carries it to the door, throws it at the sky. It flies above the potato tree. She giggles at her encounter with this small wildness.

I sit in a noisy cafe and speak French with a blond woman from Montreal. We drink lattes, discuss children’s books and the Canadian election. I make up French words and sneak salted chocolate from my Dutch handbag. She corrects my mistakes, strict and smiling.

The afternoon sunlight falls through the window in long ribbons, lands on P as she collects small Playmobil pieces, arranges them in a cardboard box. There is a dead fly laid out carefully on the miniature table. “I needed a bird. It’s a very fresh dead fly.” She adjusts its crinkly body, moves alongside death with an ease I have not taught her.

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