It's four o'clock. On a blanket in the yard, I'm curled like a hug around my baby. She's mouthing clothespins, pulling them one by one from the bucket like golden tickets, examining their angles and tasting their textures. An ant crawls across her knee; she practices her pincher grasp but misses the prize by a mile. I flick it off her leg. I peek-a-boo my tongue between my lips and hide it in my closed mouth. Her eyes, somehow, grow wider when I stick it out again. This game could go on and on but the laundry flaps overhead and she looks up – a whole new world.
My older girls are ten feet away, raking the sandbox like it's their job. Which, technically, it is – they're playing "maids" and requested that I dole out chores. [No, they wouldn't clean their room – believe me, I tried that. Only yardwork would work for this game.] They show me their hands, caked with wet sand – our work gloves, they explain. The corners of my eyes crinkle – I'm working on my laugh lines.
I rest my head on the blanket, pressing my forehead and nose against my baby's bare leg. A deep breath fills me to bursting. I'm exhaling slowly when she grabs a clump of my hair, squealing as she nearly scalps me. I pry open her fist to free myself but let her have another go, just to hear that laugh.
It's 8:30. All the kids are asleep and I leave the house with dog on leash. As dusk begins to settle, feathery and soft, I notice the season's first firefly igniting its tail briefly, then disappearing into the shadows. I wait for it – it blinks again.
I wrap my hands around this moment and press it to my chest so hard it almost hurts. They're sacred, these bits of bliss burning holes in the dark.