Porcelain

Waves hushed sounds of traffic far behind. Tiny fingers grasped mine, pulling past flowers and trees, little feet skipping over loose stones.
I took one step for her four.
She hadn’t told me our destination; “it’s a surprise Mummy.”
She glanced back, round eyes gleaming and all smiles, “we’re close!”
I couldn’t help but smile with her, adoration running deep.
Her pace slowed and I looked up.
I froze.
Upon a bed of grass, decorated with turquoise waves, lay a porcelain tea set; the one from my first birthday.
“Surprise, Mummy,” she beamed.
I hid tears in her embrace.


This is this week’s contribution to the 99 word flash fiction challenge over at the Carrot Ranch.
Charli’s prompt provided an image and the idea of a garden party, and I used both for inspiration.

Engulfed in the Moment

I lay face down on the floor, eyes closed. Giggles ensue, but not from me, they flitter in and out around me. Over there. Here. No, behind me. Wait, right in front.
Uh oh…
I feel little fingers dancing along my sides. More giggles.
No…
Oomph!
Now they’re on top; a solid body slam from each ensured that. Their tiny forms bouncing and laughing as I call for help beneath them.
“Get her good,” their dad appears close by.
Another slam.
I catch my breath and turn my head in the direction of his voice.
Arms crossed, he smiles.

So So Clever

I braced myself and lifted my two year old daughter out of her cot. She rubbed her eyes. I cuddled her close, the warmth from being curled under her blankets radiated from her. Her ringlets had lost their form, a scruffy mass of hair stuck out at all angles. Her big eyes, damp and a little red, gazed up at me.
She wrapped her tiny arms around my neck, cuddling in close. Her words muffled against my jumper, “I love you Mum-Mum,” she said, and my heart melted. I never tire of hearing her say that.
“Look at me,” I said, and she looked me in the eyes, waiting for what I wanted to say.
“You are so beautiful,” I said.
She cuddled back into my neck. “Thank you Mum-Mum,” she said.
“You’re welcome my darling,” I said, holding her tight, “Bubba, look at me.”
She did.
“You are so clever,” I said.
“Thank you Mum-Mum.” She smiled, cuddling into my neck once again.
But I had one more thing to say to my sleepy little girl before I let her run off to play.
“You’re welcome my darling. Last one Bubba, look at me please,” I said.
She did, but instead of waiting, she said, “I’m so so tired,” as she rubbed her eyes, before I could get a word out.
I laughed, and she laughed along with me before she grabbed my cheeks and gave me a super big kiss.
“I love you Bubba,” I said.
“Thank you Mum-Mum.”

Attached

Our eldest daughter slept like a baby as I peered into her cot, her baby sister in another cot beside her. The eldest was on her side, legs sprawled and mouth open, with tiny toddler hands tucked against her cheek. Her eyelids flickered as invisible dreams danced through her mind. Oh how I wish I could see inside. Her Dad-O and I are the ones who know her best but even we don’t understand everything.
All too often we find ourselves calling through the house for each other’s support.
“Bub, do you know what she is trying to say?”
“I’m not sure,” I reply, “I’m sorry darling, what’s wrong? What are you trying to say?”
I scan the room for hints on what she might be thinking; was it something on the TV? Is she hungry? Is she thirsty? Is she in pain? Has she invented a new way to play and she’s trying to show us? Has she remembered something we used to do with her? Is she confused? Is she asking us to clarify something for her? To make her life easier?
Her brow furrows as she gets lost in thought, trying to find the right words from her limited toddler vocabulary.
“We’re sorry baby, we don’t understand.”
All too often we see her give up, realising that she just cannot explain what she needs. Though others say that her speech is wonderful for her age, on the few times she struggles, my heart breaks, as I’m sure her Dad-O’s does too.
Granted, she’s an incredible toddler and rarely loses her temper, but she is so young, so innocent, isn’t it wrong for her needs to go unmet?
These are the things that I stress over when I leave her in another’s care.
Now, it may just be my anxiety and my need to be organised and to follow a strict plan – so everyone knows what to expect of each other, I tell myself. Or it may just be that I care for my daughter, and that this stress is another normal part of parenthood, for me at least. Who knows?
I struggled to resist stroking her hair or touching her cheek as she slept so peacefully, but my logical mind told me not to, that it would only make the evening that much more difficult if she were to wake.
You see, Dad-O and I are leaving now, mid-afternoon, for a late lunch, a dinner and a drink with old mates from his previous workplace. We’ve spent evenings together without our daughters before, but never from the afternoon onwards. Never in the middle of her nap time until well past her night bed time.
My anxiety starts to peak as I frantically think through everything that they’ll need for their lunch, their dinner and their bath and bed routine.
Did I explain which nappies were whose? Did I explain the correct amount of hot water to add to the youngest’s bottles? What if something happens to the pre-mixed bottles? Maybe I should make another bottle, just in case. Did I leave enough food for the eldest? Maybe I should prepare more food too, just in case. Did I get out everything for their bath time? What if they dirty those clothes? Should I get out another couple of sets of clothes out? Did I demonstrate how to tuck the baby into bed? What if she doesn’t want to sleep? What if she gets cranky and struggles through the evening routine? What if the eldest gets stressed from the baby being upset? What if she’s stressed that we’re not home? That we’ve just disappeared while she was sleeping. What if she thinks we’re not coming back?
I fight back tears as one thing piles onto another, and a simple covering of the bases blows up into me potentially foregoing the entire night.
I snap out of it and regain my composure. I do this every time. It’s something I’ve been working hard to control, and Dad-O does really well in supporting me, though I know I’ll never overcome it completely. It’ll always be there, in the back of my mind, telling me to turn around and go back, to protect them, to make sure that I know what’s happening and that I’ll have the control to make the best decision if something goes wrong. So I won’t regret leaving them if something does go wrong.
I leave their room, and walk down the hall, constantly cycling worries through my mind, trying to counter them in any way possible.
A new thought appears, one that has taken a lot of push and pull, but one that appears more often nowadays than it ever used to; they adore their nanny. They know what to expect from her and she knows what I need to feel assured that they’ll be okay. And they will be okay.
I step into the lounge, all spruced up with make-up and hair done, some pretty evening clothes on and maybe some lingerie underneath – something I don’t do often enough – and reluctantly announce that I’m ready to leave.
I take a seat in the car, breathing deep and telling myself over and over, they’ll be okay.
As a cherry on top, Dad-O leans over from the driver side, kisses me softly and – as though he read my mind – says, “they’ll be okay,” before he starts the car and we head off for what will be the longest I’ve ever been without the girls.

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Eyes of Blue

“What’s this, Mum-mum?” Isabella wondered aloud as she walked into the lounge room, looking at a pet cage on the floor.
“That’s Crystal, Bubba,” I replied, indicating our newest family member inside. She sat still, watching her three feline siblings study her from afar.
“Crystal!” Isabella chirped at the cage. As she did so, a little furry white head turned to look at its greeter. The kitten’s unblinking, bright blue eyes fixed on the little girl. It was still trying to discern who was friend and who was foe in this unfamiliar terrain.
“Crystal scary!” Isabella laughed as she ran over to me, “blue eyes!”
Crystal danced back and forth, bouncing and pacing, studying every angle of the room from between the gaps in the cage walls. Her eyes fixing particularly on each of the three cats. They watched her, pupils large and focused, ears forward and tuned to her every movement. Our black adult cat approached the cage, sniffing the air, trying to catch the kitten’s scent from as far as possible. Isabella spotted him and jumped at the opportunity to play.
“Corey!” She cried as she ran to the cage before I could stop her. Scared and on edge from the presence of the intruder-kitten, Corey sprinted for the safety of our bedroom. In response to the fright, the long-haired and most timid of our cats – Fuzzy – followed him, eager to hide away from the unpredictable action.
“Where did Corey go?” Isabella asked, “where did Fuzzy go?”
“They’re hiding in Mum and Dad’s bedroom, Darling, leave them,” I said.
Isabella returned her attention to the blue eyes in the cage. She approached it.
“Hello Crystal!” She cried as she bent down to peer inside. Once again, Isabella ran screaming as Crystal looked at her.
“Crystal scary!” She laughed, cuddling into my leg.
“She’s just a baby cat, a kitten,” I reassured her as I stroked her smooth brown ringlets. I enjoyed this opportunity to witness her first ever meeting with her new sister-cat, a brand new experience. A kitten who I hope will appreciate Isabella’s company as much as Isabella adores hers.
“Kitten,” Isabella said, eagerly watching the cage.
Our third adult cat – the king of the household – still hadn’t moved a muscle. Focused and almost impossible to distract, his eyes trained on the kitten’s every movement. It was up to him to remain in control of his domain. The other two cats experienced this first-hand when we introduced them as kittens; they quickly learnt to mind his mood and to respect his personal space. If they weren’t careful, they risked provoking him and promptly experienced his abilities. He would pounce and secure his victim in place long before they had a chance to respond. Such swift abilities like his only came with age.
Isabella finally spotted our oldest cat; he was still glaring at the kitten, unaware of Isabella’s intentions.
“Kobe!” She cried out, but this time I discovered her plan before she had a chance to move. I picked her up and sat her on my lap.
“Leave Kobe, Bubba, he’s angry, you leave him, okay?” I explained to her, attempting to prevent an outburst of disbelief. She almost never gets to play with Kobe, but she certainly understands when he is angry.
“Okay, Mum-mum,” she grumbled, “Crystal?”.
“Yes, you can play with Crystal,” I said, putting her down, “but not Kobe.”
By this point, Crystal was now laying down, watching her oldest feline brother, but never holding his gaze for too long. To do so would mean a threat, and it seemed she already knew which battles to avoid. I put Isabella down and she toddled back to the cage.
“Crystal?” She said, crouching and peering in again. Crystal remained in place and turned only her head to look at Isabella, though this time Isabella didn’t run away. She stayed there, looking at her new little sister-cat with wonder. Emboldened, she pushed a finger between the gaps of the cage, beside Crystal’s head and Crystal licked it tenderly.
Isabella giggled, “Crystal funny,” she said, smiling back at me, “love Crystal.”

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