She rolls to and from me like a yo-yo, the weight of her body propelling her first one way and then another. I clutch at her something fierce and let go with just the same vigor. We are on the bed, Laddu and I. It has been a month since she has given up her naps. Most days she sits next to me with odds and ends and a big basket. Ribbons, dice, bingo cards, tiny figurines, baby spoons, a magnifying glass.
One day, it was lasagna she was making, layering her ingredients and making a big show of mixing them before shoving it into a pretend oven. Only that she insisted it was “masagya”. I recorded it for posterity. Another day she lay bent double inspecting the tiny prints on our duvet with the magnifying glass. Her voice rose and fell in excitement lulling me to sleep. Today she sat quietly, a doodle board in hand. She drew balloons. First one, then another and then a third that went pop (according to me). She called it her spiky balloon. She sat with her back resting on my stomach, the weight of her comforting and all too familiar.
Suddenly she put away the board and lay down facing me, her eyes level with mine. We lay side by side staring into each other’s eyes until she blinked first and shattered the magic. She lay on me, her tiny body along the length of mine, tipping one way then another until gravity pushed her down and away. She did it in a loop until she tired.
They tell you the days are long and the years short. I can feel time slipping away. I hold her close, so close I can see the pores on her skin. “I am going to eat you!” I say only half joking. She laughs a belly laugh that makes me smile and eventually cry. I am not sure if I am happy or sad. The tears fall anyway.
“Braid my hair” she commands and I brush for a long time, reluctant to braid knowing she will run away once done. With each moment and each day she seems to be pushing away, swinging higher and higher and returning with as much force to me. “Kiss me,” she says and I oblige dotting her face with tiny butterfly kisses. She is deliberate as she holds my chin and places a wet sloppy kiss on my cheek.
Childhood is fleeting I realize as I sit at the back of the hall watching Ammu and Pattu perform as part of their strings orchestra at school. Long past the recital, I sit in the hallway outside their class waiting for them to change into comfortable clothes and sneakers. They each run to me, dump their clothes and bags of shoes and peck my cheek before running away. I watch them go, their hair bouncing at the back, their height nearly to my shoulders, the hint of womanhood in their gait.
There are days when all I want is for them to be out in the whole wide world, spreading their wings, finding their passion and falling in love. Then there are days like today when I want to trap them in amber and seal myself in with them.