I hear Reece in the kitchen. Drawers open. Drawers close. I say, “Reece, what are you doing?”
She says, “Nothing.”
I say, “Reece. Are you getting into trouble?”
She says, “No. I just feeding the puppy peanut butter.”
I go see what she is really doing.
There, in the middle of our galley kitchen, is our German Shepherd sitting upright, letting my three-year-old wipe his coat with a towel she climbed up to the sink to wet with water. They are the same height. They are like siblings busy in a conspiracy. I learn there are not just chunks of peanut butter in his fur but gobs of hand lotion, too, from the bottle I forgot to put away. Water covers the counter by the sink.
I sigh. Here they are again, creating disarray and destruction. I see the jar of peanut butter is open, it’s lid sitting by its side. That seems the easiest place to start. I twist the lid back onto the jar and set it on the shelf.
Reece’s eyelids are smeared with green marker, her “eye shadow” from the day before. Her fingers are shiny from the peanut butter oil and lotion. She is a mess like this each day. She looks up at me with eyes apologetic, just like she learned from watching Puss in Boots, so I don’t yell. This time.
I dry off the counter. I wipe away all adjacent messes like the peanut butter transferred from fur to cupboard doors. I scrub the dog.
This is life with the Reece, as we affectionately call her. Each day brings a new activity requiring clean up. Yet for every footprint of food coloring or swirl of nail polish on the tile, she makes up for it with wit and charm.
On a Monday
After a lunch at my mom’s house, I hold Reece’s coat up for her to put on. I say, “Are you ready, Freddy?”
She says, “I not Freddy. I, Reece.”
On a Tuesday
She stands on top of the coffee table. She lets out a high-pitched C that hurts my ears.
I say, “Reece. Stop screaming.”
She says, “I not screaming. I making sounds.”
On a Wednesday
It’s 10 below outside. I am covered in a long-sleeved crew neck, hooded sweatshirt, long underwear, jeans, and a wool sweater with thick socks–just to hang around the house. I walk toward the staircase and call to Reece.
I say, “Let’s get out of your jammies and get dressed.”
She says, “Oh! Are we going to the beach today, Mommy?”
On a Thursday
We’re in the van. Reece is buckled in behind me. I’m preoccupied with my own list of things to do. I need to hurry home to put away the beer bottles and board games from the night before. We have company coming again.
I drive. I say nothing.
Reece’s giggles fill the silence. She says, “I love my mommy, my daddy, I love my sisters, and I love me! And I like Daddy’s friends.” She giggles again, fresh from her flirtations with the weekly gaming group.
On a Friday
We get a letter of confirmation: Reece has a spot in the preschool next year. I have these thoughts, selfish ones, of how she’s my baby, and how I never considered myself one of those moms who gets all weepy about her baby going on without her, but I’m turning into one, and even though I registered my baby and paid my deposit for a Monday, Wednesday, Friday morning preschool program each week, I can’t help but think, damn, these years have all gone too fast, and maybe, just maybe, even though she could benefit from the activity of listening to teachers and making friends and painting and learning letters and swimming in the pool, I should keep her with me at home just a little longer. I should hold her, hug her, hang on one more year before I let her go.
I hear the sounds of crackling wrappers, the clang of silverware. And I know that little bugger of mine is busy in the kitchen again.
I say, “Reece, what are you doing?”
She says, “Nothing.”
And I have these thoughts, selfish ones, of how her absence on Monday, Wednesday, Friday mornings might be a good thing for both of us, and even though these years at home with her have gone fast, I’ve gotta keep moving on as relentlessly as time does, because my baby needs be in the world and use her talents for being busy somewhere else.