“Let’s be sleepy bears.”
I lay down on the rocky hill-top and she crawls under my chin, curled up next to me. I make a cave of arms and wrap her up in it, my perfect two-year-old cousin.
“Are you a sleepy bear?”
“I’m a sleepy bear too.”
“What’s this?” She picks up a pebble between her tiny little fingers.
She giggles and picks up a different one, “eat this?”
Another fit of giggles.
“Bears eat rocks.”
“Do they? Really? Rocks?”
She rocks back into me giggling madly.
The whole world is spread beneath her. Each moment waiting to be picked up and examined. All the different experiences that are going to turn this perfect giggly ball into a complex puzzle of a woman. The secrets she will carry with her. The broken hearts she will house. Not right now, though. Not yet.
On the walk home we fall behind. Her tiny hand in my own.
A broken paper of iridescent plastic lays folded on itself in a puddle. The sun reflecting rainbows like an oil spill. She oooooohs and crouches over it. I fish it out of the puddle, lay it flattened on my jean leg, and dry it off with my mittens.
“What is it?”
“A rainbow like the sky?”
Dried, I hand it to her. She holds it in her hands, awed.
“Want me to carry you?”
I pick her up, and walk faster, trying to catch up with the others.
“You know what happens sometimes is that a rainbow finds someone they really love down on earth, someone like you, Willy. So they jump down from the sky and wait to be found. It’s lucky, Willy. Really lucky. That rainbow wanted to be with you. You rescued it. It’s yours. Your rainbow.”
“Yours. It’s a Willa-Rainbow. It’s special because they hardly ever come down to be with us. You must be really special for it to come all this way to be found.”
“Yes. Just for you.”
She grins and holds it up to the sky, looking through the colours. She holds it out and watches it flutter in the breeze. She clutches it tightly all the way home. Showing everyone she meets.
While we eat lunch she crawls into my lap and puts her little arms around my neck.
Whispering, I can’t quite make out her words.
“What’s that?” I lean closer.
“It’s a happy day. Happy day.”
“The best day, Wills. I think so, too.”
She’s perfect. Getting bigger, smarter, sweeter with every passing day. Collecting hearts like keepsakes. I hand her mine. Easy. Tie it to her wrist like a ribbon. She’s making up the pieces of her puzzle, slowly, day by day.
Today is a happy day.
Today I got to be a piece.