We are on the last leg of a long walk (for you), and I am carrying the bike you have just started to ride and the hat you refuse to wear. It’s just starting to turn cold, just the tiniest of chills in the air. Your hands are always red hot, your feet as well, and you probably don’t need a hat at all with the fire you generate for yourself.
In sight of the house, and you are flagging, which for you means wandering off to squeeze through fences and hide behind trees, anything to postpone the moment I will suggest carrying you. I am pretending that we are steam engines to keep you moving. Your jumper is mustard and your duffel coat is stained with greenish moss and you are, as ever, the most beautiful thing I ever saw in my life. Your nose is starting to run and you’re rubbing it across your cheeks in that disgusting way two-year-olds do. You are cold, then. We need to get home.
Then the wind roars and swirls over us, and shakes another batch of dry leaves off the oak trees high above our heads. Thousands of them are pulled free of their last tethers, caught up in gusts and eddies as though for a final hurrah. They swirl in formation, mesmerisingly, like migrating birds, and then fall to earth. We’re caught in it like snow. You look up, and up.
‘The leabs! The leabs are falling down!’ you exclaim. Mouth open in wonder. You can’t stop looking. You still can’t say your V’s.
It’s been a bit of a hard week, where I have wrestled with knotty adult things I will not tell you about, now or later. Or maybe I will, much later, when you find you have wrestling of your own to do. Watching you stand, open-mouthed, in swirling leaf-flakes doesn’t solve anything for me, in the way that beautiful things don’t ever negate hard things but stand side by side with them, light and shadow together and complete in themselves. But for a minute I watch you watching the leaf-fall, and think about how unbearably lovely the look on your face is, and rest. I’m glad of a rest, and glad it comes with you.
‘Do you want some lunch?’ I ask you once the wind has dropped.
‘Yep’, you say, adding after a moment of consideration, ‘a Teddy lunch. Not a train lunch’.
I’d forgotten we were steam trains. I make a wheeshing sound, and not a good one.
‘Thass a elephant noise’, you say, reprovingly.
‘Oh yes. Sorry.’
I shift your bike under my other arm, and we go home.