My iWatch shows 6:46 AM. The king size bed I am in is curiously populated. I am on one side almost at the edge of my side. My youngest is way past the middle on dad’s side of the bed. A little away is Pattu breathing heavily and making it known she is awake and in need for acknowledgment.
“Morning!” I say sleepily. In response, both kids scoot over to my side of the bed leaving the bed lopsided all over again. Laddu’s hands search for my earlobe as she prepares for the second round of sleep. Pattu’s head is pressing on Laddu’s as she tries to sneak a peek at whatever it is I am reading on my phone.
I put my phone away and look at the two girls attempting to cuddle with me. I reach over Laddu’s head to place my palm on Pattu’s head. My fingers weave through her hair, massaging her scalp in repetitive circular motions. Her eyes focused on mine slowly shut, her eyelids fluttering and finally giving up the fight. I continue to caress her and her body relaxes her breathing evens. It takes about five minutes and she is asleep in a way that makes me envious.
Laddu, tired of her big sister pressing on her, gets up and walks away. Pattu, even when sleeping moves closer aligning her body with mine. The warmth that comes from lying in bed all night is cozy and reeks of security. I trace my fingers, now rough from continual housework, over the planes of her face. Her skin is soft, blemishless. I feel an overpowering rush of affection for my child.
I love you
I love you
I love you…
The words are in a loop in my head. I love her.
In the years since Laddu made an appearance in our lives, she has usurped this kind of one on one time with my older ones. Our expression of affection is now limited to hugs before school and the sometimes unprompted cuddles when I am in the kitchen. As my older children grow taller and morph into mini-adults, physical affection is sparse. We say the words. In the morning, in notes to each other, at night when I tuck them into bed. I kiss them on their forehead, I hug them close.
I miss this kind of closeness though. The kind that comes from lying next to each other, our contours molding to each other, the warmth of the breath over my skin, the overpowering rush of emotion, the words that go drum like in my head. The periodic reminders of how instinctual all of this is. The need to dote, to protect, to cherish my children. To show that I love them, to know that they know I love them.
Love is all that matters.