M smells like pee in the morning, his own sweet pee, vaguely of breast milk, musky, distinctive as rain. His diaper's got to weigh 5 pounds. But his hair still smells like soap from last night's bath, his breath as clean and clear as tears. He is compelled to cry on waking up, no matter what, it seems; a noise that arches like a cat's back, snapping the morning into broken pieces and I crack awake to it.
"Noo-ooo!" is the first thing out of him, then a sob, then pitifully, in the dark, "mommy..."
"Sh! SH! SH!" I hiss. "I'm coming to you! Don't wake up the baby!" and I fight my way out of bed, instantly cold and sorry for myself. I pull him out of his crib clutching Bluey the blanket, and I take his quilt for me. We assume the position in the nursey chair, and I hastily wrap the little quilt around my shoulders while he tucks Bluey around his own body, laying on his side across my lap, mouth open, waiting for the booby, and blump, there it is. It seems to fall out of my pajamas these days without even being asked.
Eyes closed, he latches on with quiet relish, one hand delicately holding the ribbony edge of Bluey and stroking it a little with one finger, while in the other hand he keeps his binky, at the ready to replace the boob when he's finished. I feel his body settling into mine, and my body, into the chair, curving around him, warming up under the little quilt and M's skin, weight, heat.
The light outside starts to change; I've no idea what time it could be, but make out, squinting through a camouflage of random baby socks, nearly 6, on the digital clock. It's perfect. He's sleeping later these days, 6 is a luxury; but it's still early enough that I don't have to transfer him back into the crib and start the day right this minute. I stay where I am, drop my chin to my chest, and doze off with him, inhaling him, relieved, and greatful.
Half an hour later, he's still deeply asleep, and I decide to risk all this peace for a major indulgence; would he stay asleep if I carefully deposit him back in his crib, would they all stay asleep long enough for me to watch the news and eat a bowl of cold cereal.... all by myself?
I sneak my arms under his shoulders and hips and gingerly lift him up, then over the side of the crib and in, laying all 35 pounds of him out as gently as if he were 3 weeks old. I tuck Petey-Pie Penguin under Bluey, and M's arm creeps out to pull Petey even closer; he presses himself down into the mattress. My good boy. My beauty boy. For a moment I consider getting in the crib with him; B has done it, it's a good crib.
I want the news. Even for just ten minutes, I'll take a traffic report, weather, anything.
But as I tip-toe toward the door, Little H stirs; she only moves in her sleep if she's about to wake up. I wait, foot in the air; maybe not this time? Maybe she'll just shimmy a little and burrough back in?
"Wheeeeee," she croons, pitched just like a kitten, and without opening her eyes she sits right up in her gigantic big-girl crib, lower-lip protruding in insult, her face hot, smelling of camphor and sunflower lotion, her cheeks red and velvety. I scoop her up quickly, tuck a binky back in, and deposit her into the big bed alongside B, and cover her up.
Shirtless and stretched out for miles, his long, curly, mauvey-gray hair fanning across the blue pillow, the dawn light on him, he looks like a rock star; I poke him. He opens one blue, confused eye. I point at Little H, who is just about back to sleep next to him, laying on her side with her nose in his neck. I touch my finger to my lips. He nods, and crosses an arm over her, draws his legs up a little to make a bumper of his body. She works her binky for a moment, then lets out a little foal-whinny, the binky falling out, her little lips breath in angelic o's.
I look at them.
I turn and look at M.
My goodies. My goody darlings. They are so good, all three. How lucky I am. How the sight of thier faces feels like a kiss on my heart, on the real inside of my body.
I step out of the room on the floor's sweet spots that don't creak, and close the door all the way. I continue to walk lightly into the kitchen as if for good measure. There is my favorite cereal, cereal being my single favorite food in the world. This particular one looks just like dog food, but it's so crunchy and yummy. I could eat it a box at a time. I pour a huge bowlful and drown it in milk, I pick out the good spoon, and take a big, cold, delicious bite. I crunch and crunch, and munch along into the living room.
And who greets me there but my sad-sack Pit Bull, ears pressed back to her head in welcome, twisting onto her back in the big chair where she lay, her smooth, white, ropey-muscled chest open for my hand, her flat head upside down on the armrest, pink chin in the air, her rhumey eyes say, 'I am good, you know, I am. Give me something...'
I set down my bowl, kneel, and press my cheek to her chest, rubbing her side hard with the back of my hand as if starting a fire. I kiss her pink, musty old dog chin. I deposit one ring of cereal into her yellowing sabre-toothed chops. Her tail thuds consistently against the upholstery.
"Can I eat my cereal?"
'Ohh, all right.'
It's light out now, but softly so. I open the blinds, and turn on the tv; news. Luscious news. Hillary is ahead. A healthy baby girl was born in the Midtown tunnel and will be named Hector. No one died in any of the night's shootings. The market closed up. The Grand Central is wide open coming in and out of the city right now, and the forecast has a spot of rain for the morning, but otherwise, looks good.