Laddu stands in front of me, her body leaner, taller than I thought. I liberally apply a moisturizer to her skin that drinks it in. Her long hair is in braids, one on either side of her face. The baby fat is melting away leaving in place a little girl who is growing way too fast. Ammu and Pattu are dressing in the same room, laughing and cracking jokes about peeling skin because of how hot the water was when they showered. I listen, knowing these moments are precious, unguarded.
They are utterly un-selfconscious, in a way I wish I could be. Their hair is silky from having brushed it a requisite one hundred times. Their skin, dewy soft from the shower. They are tall, easily at shoulder length when they stand against me. The kid like features has morphed into those more seen in tweens. The planes and angles of their face are sharp, reflecting their heritage. They weigh themselves rattling off numbers, eager for approval.
I insist that they play with blocks instead of watching TV. Today, they agree without a murmur. I am surprised, holding on the moment knowing that it is rare. They rush downstairs when they hear the garage, a relic from the times they stood, the three bodies pressed together, just inside the door, waiting to boo their Appa.
The three of them sit at their assigned spots at the kitchen island, worksheets in front of them. The twins are unfocused, twiddling their pens, playing with their hair while the youngest is a picture of concentration, her stubby fingers determined to master the alphabet. I walk upstairs to catch a nap after instructing them to bring me their finished work.
Pattu is first, she arrives breathless as I catch up on the news breaking on Twitter. I scan her Math, point out simple mistakes. She flourishes a pencil as I ask her to go downstairs, fix her mistakes, put her homework away and bring her iPad to me. She bites on her lower lip as she corrects figures and works furiously for her iPad time.
A few minutes later, Laddu crawls into bed with me, her thumb and index smudged with ink from her dry erase markers. I remind her that big girls do not suck their thumbs and she dutifully clutches a stuffed animal instead.
I wait for Ammu and she does not disappoint. She is distraught though. I instruct her to bring a writing pad and do her work next to me. She cheers up and spends the next half hour asking me questions as she works. I all but do the math for her. She seems relieved to finish her one-page homework and rushes to grab her iPad. I remind her to put away her work.
Quiet reigns as Laddu snores softly. The markers for growth have been all around me and it suddenly feels all too much. I once despaired about how much I was tied to them, about how I had to physically be there every moment of every day. These sudden snatches of time I find is a surprise as they do their own things.
I brush away thoughts of the future, afraid I might expect too much, feel the disappointment acutely. I instead, linger on this moment today when everything seems just right, normal and okay.