E climbs into my lap, by hook or by crook, by knees, knuckles or teeth. She clasps my face between her palms and comes in slower than a teenage first kiss and much more self-assured. I don't think I've ever been sized up at such close range, as many times, as intensely, as by my children.
Her lips are just above mine, damp against the divot between my mouth and nose. The sound comes a beat later, delayed and garbled like an imprecise movie dub.
I nuzzle her neck, kiss her head, inhale the warm, sweet smell that feels less and less like an extension of myself and more like a little person I happen to know well.
I remember the day I stopped letting my older daughter kiss me on the lips. She was 18 months old and she had just started her first week at part-time daycare.
She came home, after hours away, and I asked and guessed and wished to know what had happened while she was there. After a year and a half of knowing everything, I could no longer know much of anything about her day.
She smelled different. Like salty playdough and flowery foreign diapers and a stranger's heavy perfume. I would kiss her head and immediately plan to bathe her, to reclaim her.
I stopped kissing Z on the lips that week because she suddenly got sick. Very sick. The kind of sick that makes you call daycare a petri dish and a sick factory and a germatorium. That winter was a Russian roulette of sick, as she cycled through every type of illness, including ones that sounded like they were reserved for cloven farm animals.
I knew she'd get these illnesses eventually, if not at 18 months, then in preschool or kindergarten or from the playground. And I liked so much of what happened when she went to daycare, me being challenged and freed by working a little, her learning and growing and playing in ways I could never have done for her by myself. We still had plenty of time together, I was still a constant in her days.
But I missed kissing her on the lips. And I missed knowing her, every inch and bit and minute of her.
The summer is coming. CG and I are filling in our calendar with summer camps and trips to Vermont and plans to swim and go to the beach and visit local farms as often as possible. We will be busy. The good kind of busy.
I want to soak all this in, these days "at home', because in the fall, Z will be a kindergartner, gone from 8:30-2:30, 5 days a week. E will start a morning preschool, three days a week.
I will have more time than I can fathom to figure out what I want to be when I grow up and possibly, even, to earn some money. Or to get the laundry dried before it turns moldy in my washing machine. Either or.
I work every day at appreciating this time, not wishing it away or begging it to go faster. I know I will miss it when it's gone.
Just like I miss those kisses from Z.