'Can you tie my shoes? I might fall.'
My three year old is wearing a pair of hand-me-downs with laces. I bend down at his feet, realizing as I do that I haven't yet bought him his own shoes. These latest ones came from his old babysitter. I hold the fraying laces between my fingers. As I begin the bow, I feel small hands in my hair, playing, seeking reassurance. This is a child who strokes my eyebrows when I lean in to kiss him goodnight.
'Cozy eyebrows' he says.
And now I have memories of work experience at Vogue when one of the editors cried out across the office full of clothes racks and beautiful people and bizarre paper mache props, 'Let's do a feature on eyebrows!' And it was with breathless excitement that she hauled me out from behind my corner desk as a perfect example of 'uncultured brows'. Was that really what she said? Haunted forever by 'uncultured brows'. She was stick thin in leather pants. I stood there in my floral A-line (my favourite) with an excruciatingly red flush. I did pluck my eyebrows once but it wasn't for me. I prefer 'cozy.'
The supper is cooking. I can hear water bubbling in the saucepan, the hum of the oven, the smell of boiled potatoes. I tie the bow and stay there, on bended knee even when I have finished, lingering with my son's hands in my hair. He sees the shoe is done and moves behind me, flopping on my back.
'Mummy, looky! I'm on your backy!' He giggles. I begin to stand up.
'I'm going to drop!' he says, but he doesn't, he holds on tight, gripping me as I move about the kitchen.
'Hello Mummy!' He tries to peer his head in front of me. I have gone quiet, taking in the weight of his body, the sound of his voice, the smell of his closeness to me. He is laughing and uttering a jibberish dream-talk, a collection of words I can't catch. When he can no longer hold on he slips to the floor and finds his Lego bike. He drives it noisily around the kitchen surfaces.
'I'm using your bread for jumps' he announces, 'and I'm getting the stool'. I smile, too tired to tell him the bread's not for motorbike jumps, the stool will get in the way of the cooking and that dinner's nearly ready. Tonight I'll settle for less, I'll settle for cozy.