I sit alone in a darkened livingroom, the glow from my laptop and the under-cabinet lighting in the kitchen giving me barely enough light to see. I sit here. I type. I pause. I backspace. I type again. My nose crinkles and just as I’m about to start my fingers to the keys again, I hear it: “Mumma.”
It’s soft at first. “Mumma.” Then it’s repeated, “Mumma”, no urgency. A pause…and then again, a little higher-pitched, “Mumma.” I wait, it’s late and I want her to stay in bed. I know she’s tired, I saw the bags start under her eyes when she blew me a kiss goodnight. But Maëlle is nothing if not persistent and she’s at it again, “Mumma?” Now it’s a question. A ‘will you come get me’ as opposed to ‘I wonder if you’re there’. I smile. I can feel myself giving in before my brain tells my legs to move up the stairs. I’m at her door as the first tears start to sound in her voice, “MUMMA!” I throw open the door and I’m halfway across her nursery before I see that she’s rubbing her eyes and searching for her blanket. And then it happens: the smile. The biggest, brightest, half-toothiest thing you’ll ever witness at a half-past 9pm in our house. And then the dance. She’s high-stepping like a quarter horse in her bed, so excited that I’ve come to save her from the darkness. From sleep. From hours with out her Mumma.
Only Mumma is not necessarily me. In our house it means anyone and everyone- except for Dexter. No, she’s been able to say Dexter for months. I pick her up and immediately understand why my brain told me to come up here. Because now her head is on my shoulder, thumb is in her mouth, corner of her blanket squeezed between her fingers, and her other arm is wrapped around mine, a tiny hand is patting me on the back. She pats me on the back. Everytime I pick her up. Even sound asleep, those teeny fingers drum in unison on my back, as if to say: I knew you’d come.
I snuggle her nose with my cheek, I tell her she’s gorgeous, how she’s my favourite Maëlle on the face of this earth, I ask her if she can possibly know how much I love her? As if to answer, she picks up her round little face, blond hair flopping all over the place and pops out a smile so wide that her thumb can’t manage to stay in place.
Then it’s down the stairs (we can’t wake our sisters!) and into the livingroom. “Don’t touch Mommy’s laptop, peanut. No no.” Instead she’s thrown her blanket across the hardwood and is spinning: one flat foot, one tippy toe. Spinning in circles, arms straight out from her chest. The part of me that wants her to go back to bed is losing a battle to the part that could watch her spin for days and just marvel at the beauty she made. Dexter comes to end the spinning- it’s dangerous, you know. That’s what he tells her when he stops her mid-spin with a lick straight up the side of her face.
Now a new game has started. This one is filled with running and giggles and grabbing dog’s tails. It’s a race around the staircase, Dex is in the lead and then it’s Maë…now she’s stopped and he’s run into her and knocked her down. Only she’s laughing so hard that he thinks she’s hurt and his response is to kiss her and nudge her with his nose. This incites more giggles and she’s rolling over again to take off. She doesn’t remember it’s 9:45pm. And she wouldn’t care if I told her. She waits for this. Her time alone.
Maëlle, the youngest of three, has no problem carving out her own little spot. She will not be denied, she will not be looked over, she will not be the smaller-version-of-someone-else. She will be loud and dramatic and droll and demanding. And sweet. And cuddly. And so damn concerned for others it hurts my heart sometimes.
She’s 18months and I’m all at once so frustrated and fascinated by her. I don’t want her up at night…but when she’s up I’m laughing and smiling and remembering why she was born without us really deciding for it to be so. She just…completes us. She’s a perfect ending point.