The kids find each other in the dark of the morning.
I lift a sleep-startled ear towards the sounds of squeaky voices carrying on an exchange endemic to two small people who share everything from parents to underwear; for whom “personal space” constitutes stepping back one inch, so as to still get a good vantage while the other pukes into the toilet. (this is not fiction).
“Coley, now I read you a book.” Rose announces and then parses out the first sentence, duly memorized, from our new favorite, Skippyjon Jones.
“Wait Rosie, let me get Rammy and Sealy.”
“Okay Coley, you go get yer fwiends.
Dan rolls over and is asleep again in an instant, but I am drawn into the early morning show of my two children, bending my ears to what passes as entertainment these days.
Two years ago, when Col was 2 ½ and Rose was a koala on the eucalyptus tree of my body, everything was wrong. Col wanted to stay another ten hours at the train station, clutching sooty railroad spikes like old friends and dancing to the tune of ear-splitting train whistles. Rose wanted to get back home for a quiet nap, barnacled up against my skin. I felt like a circus juggler, trying to keep diapers and cheddar bunnies and flaming sticks of fire all in the air at once.
But my new refrain is: these kids are so lucky to have each other. They understand each other the way my friend, a biologist who studies salamanders, understands every slippery ripple of her amphibian subjects. Their forgiveness and acceptance for each other is boundless; anger disappears like a balloon popping. While I’m still wringing my mind over the raw scratch Col left under Rose’s eye, she is instructing him in the next scene of their dramatic play: “Coley, now you go to sleep. I sing you a lullaby.”
When I have no patience for Rose, who’s camped out at the bottom of our stairs whining that she needs to be carried up, Col valiantly steps in: “I’ll help you up Rose.” And the two of them lumber up, slightly out of synch—clomp, lurch, clomp, lurch—hand in small hand.
Col and Rose assist each other daily in annihilating gender roles, which pleases me tremendously. At five years old Col has never shrugged off an opportunity to dress up in a poodle skirt and clack around in high heels, like some gum-cracking 1950’s diner waitress. And Rose can nail the cat with a ball from her lacrosse stick and play a flawless round of “garbage trucks.”
And yet, there is great understanding of each others’ differences. When it’s bedtime and everyone in the house is scrambling for Rose’s ducky, she eventually remembers she put her nighttime friend in her cabinet “so Col not shoot her.”
These two are a team; they go together like peanut butter and honey, rice and beans or the melodic sounds and brilliant poetry of Simon and Garfunkel. Col inspires courage in Rose because if there’s an envelope to push, he’s heaving it over the edge; And Rose is teaching Col that there are more than just two emotions, “good” and “not-good.”
I can only hope they’ll seek each other out in the dark of the morning ten years from now, but I do hope by then they each have their own underwear.
*previously published in the Durango Herald