Every morning Helena pitter patters to my bedside. Sometimes she gently shakes me awake, usually it takes only her whispered "Mama." There are mornings I'm woken by her presence, her standing there and gazing at me; I'm awake but don't open my eyes, wondering how much longer before she whispers or reaches out her hand, wondering how long has she has been there already, wondering if she stands there all those other mornings too, perhaps her presence alone is not enough to rouse me as often as I think.
She asks if we can go upstairs, is it time. She assembles her things — usually her pillow and a chosen bear — for me to carry for her. From my own bedside I grab my glasses (to put them on in this half-sleep haze would be too rude an awakening) and the novel du jour.
In recent days, Helena wants to carry my book for me. She has created this job for herself; she holds the book as if it were a holy relic, presenting it to me proudly at the top of the stairs. It is important, and it is something she does for me.
This weekend was a holiday weekend, St-Jean Baptiste day. A visit from Helena's grandmother. A trip to the bookstore. A trip to the playground (le parc jaune, for its yellow slide), a walk through the park to see if we could score balloons or flags. Coming upon an assembled crowd, staying late to watch flamenco dancers. Neighbours having a party; being sung to sleep by their drunken crooning in the wee hours. A trip to another park (le parc boum-boum, for its bumpy slide). Tending the flowers on our balcony. A walk to the video store, another shop. Stopping at the playground on the way home. A tricycle ride to the schoolyard after supper. Back to the park after breakfast. A little drive. Later, a walk to yet a different park, with a wading pool. Splash. A tricycle ride to return a movie. Crepes for breakfast. A visit to our old park, the one we used to live across the street from, to feed the ducks and, of course, enjoy the playground (le parc rouge, for its red slide). A walk to the store for a bottle of wine and cookies. Finally, the rain.
I steal away to read a few pages. Helena finds me on the bench in the courtyard. She asks to look at my book. The only picture is the one on the dustjacket. I make the mistake of telling her the book is about a train. She is too eager now. The bookmark flutters to the ground. Helena opens Iron Council to page one. She's facing me; she props the book up on her knee so as to display all that lies within to her audience. She describes the illustration that only she can see, a bright blue engine; and she "reads" to me about a train called Thomas and the schoolchildren who come to visit him.
(China Miéville's Iron Council is not a light read. Review. The language is rich, heavy; the politics, slow to digest. The making of myth and messiahs. "The uncovering of the 'truth' informs the achievement, but does not destroy it: actions gain their own momentum." Debate.)