The leaves are mostly still green but every so often there’s a cluster that got the memo: it’s autumn. Sometimes there’s a swathe that just looks splattered with colour, as if someone threw a bucket of paint at them. The fall colours here are audacious in comparison to Ireland’s basic browns and dark reds – here we get ruby red and lemon yellow and orange and lime green and gold all on the one tree. We wake up chilly, we look for slippers, we put on jackets to go to school. By hometime the jackets are stuffed in backpacks (with luck) and it’s warm on the playground, spreading mulch and finding hideouts in the woods and organizing societies of children, ignoring their mothers with their mother-talk and being ignored as much as possible in return.
In the morning an imperious call summons me. For some reason I always went to her bed, not she to mine except in dire straits. I sleepwalk out of bed, though it’s a perfectly reasonable hour, gone seven. But I don’t have to get up till half past. I haul myself up into her newly hand-me-downed baby loft bed, my back not yet loosened up for the day, and lie down beside her. She curls up against me and we both drift off for a little longer, snuggly. I wake further to find her squeezing my cheeks and running her finger along the lines of my forehead, not too gently, but with love.
These are the last days of such snuggles, that began with my tiny baby at my breast, in my bed. Now she’s half the size of me, it seems like, but she still looks at me with uncomplicated love and wants to have her face beside mine. I stare back at her beautiful bouncy skin, her huge eyes and long lashes, her cherub lips. She might be judging me, but she doesn’t seem to find me lacking. She accepts my difference and invites me in.
Her brother closes his door at bedtime these days. I might creep softly in to turn off his alarm on a weekend night, or to see if his duvet is over or under him, but mostly I try to respect his space. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to climb in beside him to soothe him back to sleep after a bad dream. But if we’re walking together his hand still snakes into mine, even at school. He’s not ready to renounce me just yet.