My days and nights lie between sleep and wakefulness.
Helena comes home all sweetness. We chat, eat, play.
She makes tea (with tiny rubber frogs), and "washes" dishes.
She delays bedtime, tucking in all her friends before she herself is ready to don pyjamas. Tubby Dipsy has trouble falling asleep, Helena tells me. She presses an imaginary magic button on the wall that plays Dipsy's music, Dipsy's favourite — and, so far as I can tell, wholly imaginary — song, "La danse du lion." Helena tells me shh, listen (!?), isn't it pretty?
Where's Helena's magic button?
She is in bed by 9, late but not terribly unreasonable.
I snack, tidy, putter. By 9:45 I decide to ready myself for bed. I'll settle in and read. Helena is sitting on the stairs, waiting for me. I re-tuck her, but she's restless; she puts socks on, plumps her pillow, takes her socks off, doublechecks that her friends are sleeping soundly, and creeps into my room.
I invite her to read with me. With a sigh I set aside Smilla's Sense of Snow, which is maybe just as well, cuz it makes me feel a cold that no number of blankets can comfort, though I expected it to be perfect February reading, and it might be, if the snow outside where fresh, crisp, white, but it's not, it's grey and damp cold not suited to gazing in wonder, and we read about Caterpillar's Dream, which takes forever because the pages are lightly textured, bumped, and Helena has to feel every square inch of them, and then we read Guji Guji, which takes forever because Helena interrupts every sentence with urgent tapping on my hand or tugging on my sleeve or even less subtle "Mama, mama," to catch my attention to tell me, "look, c'est Guji Guji" and there he is, crocodile among ducks, I think she only does it because she likes saying Guji Guji, it's hard to fault her for this, it is fun to say Guji Guji, and then we read The Happy Lion, which takes forever because Helena must say "Bonjour, Happy Lion" whenever he is pictured and roar a little, we rarely make it to the end of this story, I don't know why, she loves the first half, but then I don't know, so she hands me the Pandi books, the reading of which takes forever because they're French, and I read French slowly on the best of days, self-conscious that my pronunciation will be corrected by the child, worried too that I'm missing the whole point of the story even if I think I know the words, and it's painfully so now that I'm tired and bleary-eyed, J-F has joined us and as much as I encourage, nag, beg him to read to the kid, especially her French books, he rarely does, and now it's a vicious circle cuz when he offers, Helena wants none of it, c'est mama who's the reader, so he offers less, nobody likes rejection, and I read two Pandi books, one about the doctor, and one about the ball, and they take forever also because Helena insists that Pandi's name be changed to Helena throughout, I don't know where she got that idea, and just for this series of books, so I proceed slowly, taking care, but sometimes I forget anyway and Helena scolds me and I have to read the page over, and then we read The Cat in the Hat, and both of them are snoring, finally, is it 11:00 already? just before Things One and Two arrive, thank goodness, I do not like those Things, Mother would not like them at all, and I sneak out to lie in Helena's bed, and I toss and turn, and I wonder what Isaiah was doing up on the roof, I think I hear Helena cry out a couple times but I do my best to ignore her and remind myself that I am far far away, until she wakes before 5 am wanting me to read her the train story and then eager to play Lego.
J-F has to go in to the office today, so I let him sleep while I make juice and coffee and muffins and fruit, we turn on the tv, I think I doze off for a while. Helena is busy camping, which entails packing the car, which entails a lot of shopping bags, each with a book or a doll or some sandals, piled in a corner of the living room. She tells me to wait in the car, I think I doze off again.
Fate smiles on me in this mysterious way: that my hair in incredibly sexy today, so this makes me feel a tiny bit beautiful and we go for a walk.
We buy matching socks — which takes forever because the store has a children's play area, a few steps, a tunnel, a slide, Helena had to slide, I actually consider for a moment leaving her unattended, what's the worst that could happen?, when I hear a child crying and I think it might be Helena, even though I'm staring right at her, I tell her she can have 3 turns and then we have to leave, this is the very longest 3-foot-high slide of my life — and butter cookies and a gerber daisy.
She sleeps a little in the stroller on the way home, maybe 20 minutes, it doesn't last, it's not deep enough that I can move her without disturbing her and I can walk no longer. I need to rest.
We spend the rest of the day shuffling our feet and not understanding each other, she's highly emotional, I cannot tell her to wash her hands or not to open the umbrella in the house without inspiring a flood of tears, we find comfort in tomato soup, cheese and crackers, staring at Dora dancing like ants and spiders, we giggle, but mostly we're silent.
She's asleep now.