It’s 10:30 p.m. and L is mid-sentence in a conversation with me in the living room when he stops and cocks his head to the side. There are faint sounds of bare feet on hardwoods, and then a tousled and squinty Noah appears in the doorway, woken by some shift in the air or dog’s bark. He isn’t scared, or unhappy or even all the way conscious. Just seeking something familiar.
Earlier that evening after dinner, Noah, Rosie and I had taken a walk around the block to enjoy the weather, stopping every few feet to admire some insect or gnarled twig or man-made debris left behind by kids on skateboards. He asked if we could do math, so I threw around equations in the air and watched as he caught them and tumbled them around in his head until the right number came and he delivered it back to me, smiling.
We moved on from division and multiplication and after a discussion about the particular make and model of a truck that passed us on the street he told me matter-of-factly that he’d always liked cars. Something about the plain language of that obvious statement seemed to make it truer than it had been before he’d said it out loud. I told him about the jobs he might be able to do one day, jobs that would involve cars. It only took about two sentences of explanation for him to definitively decide that he would like to become a mechanical engineer. (But only if he got to pick the new names of the cars he helped design.)
Back home we set up a chess game beside the bathtub while Rosie soaked and puttered in her suds. Two days before, I did not know how to play chess. Three days before, neither did Noah. He is a good teacher. (I did not win.)
I am thinking about all of that as he shuffles toward me on the couch, fresh from sleep. He crawls up into my lap, warm and wrinkled and half-awake, and settles in, resting his head in the crook of my arm. I meet L’s eyes over the top of our boy’s brown mop. We don’t have to say it out loud to know we’re both thinking he is ours. And: he is incredible.
I do not know how much longer I can count on him to seek me out when he wakes and curl up next to my chest only to fall fast asleep once again. I imagine as the arithmetic gets more complicated and the chess games grow lengthier, those moments will dwindle. But right now I am content to be here in the in-between, where he is both grown and small all together at once and the noises of night fade away in my nearness, leaving him free to dream of the cars he’ll one day create, and name.