I get out of the car, gathering the pieces parts that made the trip with us: purse, phone, drink, Mum-Mum wrappers, Jackson’s bottle of water. N.C. works to get the kid out of his carseat–always a challenging prospect. While he fiddles with straps and buckles and 28 pounds of squirmy toddler, I grab the diaper bag.
As I come around the back of the car, N.C. stands up with Jackson in his arms. “Koala baby,” we say, a phrase we’ve taken to calling the kid as he’s learned to cling. I smile to see the two of them together.
Jackson looks over his daddy’s shoulder, and sees me. His face lights up, and my heart lifts. He leans to reach for me, ignoring things like gravity, height, and the fact that I’m still about 2 feet away. The leaning tower of toddler continues moving toward either me or the ground, so I take two steps forward just in time for him to wrap his arms around my neck, and his legs around my waist.
“Pack mule mommy,” N.C. and I say at almost the same time. What is it about being a parent that gives you the ability to carry all this crap while carrying a moving, wriggling kid? Somehow, the diaper bag and other items get taken from me, leaving me with the kid and my purse. Much more manageable.
I used to be able to get in the house from the car in less than 2 minutes. Now, we’re lucky if it’s around 5, but eventually we all make it in the door. I bend down to put Jackson on the floor, just as he picks his legs up and refuses. He’s clingy today, but it’s the end of a long stressful workday, so I don’t mind. In fact, silently, I’m kinda happy about it.
“Fine, fine, I’ll just put my purse down, and then we’ll sit down together.”
I’m finally free of all accouterments besides the kid. All of a sudden, he leans in to kiss me, that awesome open mouth kiss that melts my heart. “Aww, thanks for the kiss buddy!”
He stops, looks me right in the eye, and puts a hand on my cheek. I stop moving, waiting to see what he’s going to do next. Still staring intently at me, he puts his other hand on my cheek, cupping my face in his hands, gazing in my eyes. We stay like that for an eternity and a heartbeat, and I try not to breath lest I break the spell. He searches my face, and then breaks into a slow megawatt smile that would cheer up even the grinchiest grinch.
And then the moment’s over, and he’s squirming to get down, to run and play and be a toddler. I let him down, wishing he’d stay still in my arms a few more minutes, but knowing I’ll take those moments–however fleeting–whenever I can get them.