Our days are filled with affection. My children, being completely bilingual, are adept at American hugs and French calins, and dispense these joyously (mostly) throughout the day. But there is something especially poignant about the morning cuddle, the first and most delicious caress of the day.
It is as if the toxins of their tantrums, their princess demands, their bêtises and all their mis-targeted mischief – all the moments of yesterday that made me close my eyes and count to ten before asking (not out loud), “why did I have these children anyway?” – all of it washes away overnight, flaking off during their sleep and disappearing through the dream-catchers hanging above their beds.
They rise in the morning, semi-conscious and automatically innocent. The footfall of tiny feet down the stairs, uneven and still stiff from an overnight of motionless sleep, groggy in the sweetest kind of way, waking me enough to skooch over and make room for the small body that nudges its way under the covers and curls up like a spoon within my embrace. Even several days dirty from country house living, the skin smells sweet and the hair is scented with the sweat of swing-sets and forested play.
Almost immediately, breathing lengthens and loudens, and sleep reigns again as if the trip from the bed upstairs to our bed downstairs was a quick flight between REM stages; like they could wake up and have no memory of how they got in bed with us.
Short-pants is curled up beside me and her soft long limbs intertwine with mine. Buddy-roo will stumble down any minute. There is a bond that is renewed with each and every morning hug, a reminder that we all fit together, our DNA is shared, so then why not a few moments of pillows and sheets? We revert back to the moment when we were in constant embrace, those babies in my womb and De-facto‘s thoughtful arm over my big belly. Ages ago it seems, and yet reenacted every morning.
Last night, the last drive of our spring break trip, a tour that took us to Italy and slowly back through France, visiting friends along the way before a respite at our country house, driving sometimes in 10-hour chunks. The final leg took only 4 hours and 5 minutes; we managed without even a bathroom stop, allowing De-facto to beat the previous record by 2 minutes. This morning’s cuddle is particularly cherished, then, as it marks the end of our spirited (but tiring) voyage and the return to Parisian routine.
I lay half-awake, staring out the dormer windows, listening to the sound of our city street coming to life, caressing the soft skin of my child, breathing in tandem with her. Slowly I let the thoughts of my day ahead creep in, the things to do after being gone nearly 20 days may be daunting, but I am fortified by the sweetness of this moment, to be savored until, say, the two of them break into battle just about the time of my second cup of coffee.