I still tiptoe into their rooms to watch them sleep, sometimes by the eastern sun filtered through Briar's pink sheers, others by gossamer beams of moonlight sneaking through the leaves to kiss Avery's face. Stories at bedtime are tender, soft pads of little fingertips trace circles on my legs, or pull ringlets toward rosy lips and point to beloved characters. The hazy moments after lifting the girls from their beds we cuddle, little cheeks resting on my chest, my fingers slipping through the silky tendrils that catch on their eyelashes. It is bliss, and my love for them threatens to eclipse all else, until play time.
To be clear on playtime, it is the time between 6am and 7pm. Thirteen hours, interrupted only twice a day, an hour long morning nap for both and a two hour afternoon nap for Avery. A bit more simple math gets us to 10 hours during which both girls are 100% on me. They run and chase one another, their favorite obstacle course, a door. An easily 75 year old door with a beautiful glass window and a crank chime. They zip back and forth trading sides, at random intervals turning the handle on the door, the clang of the ancient mechanism making my teeth rattle. When I close the door they scatter, Avery to find the phone and Briar to the computer.
"Mommy, I need Einsteins." Briar declares, two shades shy of a whine.
I start for the computer as Avery gums the hard plastic antenna casing on the cordless phone.
"I'm comin' baby."
"I just need the Einsteins!" Full screech as iTunes opens.
"Ok, be calm, it's coming."
Beep beep beep do do do beep. Seven tones in fast sequence. Redial. Shit I lunge for the phone, the dog jumps up at my sudden move, crash. Damnit. I crash into the bookshelf, books and toys tumble down, four of them squawk, at least two beep.
"Honey, give me the phone."
"Sweetie, mama needs the phone." It's ringing.
"I. Just. Need. The. Einsteins. IjustneedtheEinsteinsrightnow!"
"Ok." My reply muffled by the continued beeping and sputtering from the brightly colored pile of toys at my feet.
"Hello." The voice is coming from the phone.
"Heh-roe." Avery chirps with delight.
"Avery, give me the phone."
"Hello..?" Again from the phone.
Weird Al Yankovic loudly rapping I'm just so white and nerdy blares from the speakers and then there is crying followed by a glass shattering scream, "I just need the Einsteins! I don't want this one"
"Briar, hang on. Avery, phone." I snap. Briar quietly sobs, Avery passes me the phone.
"Aw, hell? Is anyone there?" My god why has this person not just hung up?
"So sorry, wrong number." I pant as I lower the phone to hang up.
"Who were you trying to call?"
"I said, who were you trying to call?" She asked very pointedly.
"No one. It was a mistake."
"You didn't mean to call me, or you didn't mean to call?"
Avery is chewing on the cord to Sean's amp and Briar is wiping tears and snot from her face and systematically deleting each icon from the dock of our iMac.
"Baby, please stop, I'll fix it. Ave, stop biting, no no no."
"What was that?" She asked. Oh my god lady, have you never heard of a kid grabbing the phone?
"Nothing. I have to go. My daughter dialed the phone. Sorry to have bothered you."
"Oh, ok. You have a nice day."
I hung the phone up as Avery banged Sean's guitar against the wall, Briar was sucking juice from her sippy cup through a t-shirt of mine as if to filter the red juice that seeped through, soaking and surely staining.
"Stop. No more banging, no more juice. Just stop." My bark hung in the air, the harshness smacking me in the face.
"Girls, Im sorry. We just need a minute. Let's slow down. Ok?"
"Mama can I jump?"
"No babies, no jumping. How about a little cuddle?
They come at me as I get down on my back, Briar is the first to touch me, she wraps her arms around me and molds herself to my body. I hold my hand out for Avery and as she grabs it I feel all the tension slip from my body. This is right. These are my girls. Briar's face is pressed against my chest, Avery's full weight is pressing into my side as she leans against me, claiming me as passionately as Briar. And then they wrestle.
Again, there is bliss.