Then it is 6:30am. The baby has woken up crying and grunting and then returned to sleep after unleashing a torrent of farts more noxious than anything produced by any cat. Pale winter light streams in through the blinds. The world outside the window is twilit and cold and here in the room the baby and I are wrapped in blankets and each other, safe in our own cocoon. We stare into each other's eyes and drift into the satisfying sleep of happy warm fed tiredness and mutual delight.
What feels like merely a cruel eyeblink of second later (but is probably more like an hour of human time) I hear the unmistakable noises of the prodigal son trampling our way. He is in high spirits and an excellent mood. He is making cheerful car noises and interrogating me on the whereabouts of his motorbike.
"Shushhhhh," I say. And "I don't know. Go look."
"I want to give the baby a Good Morning Kiss!" He vaults onto the sofa and headbutts her jovially. All females in the room suffer this with good grace. He hugs his sister and she obligingly tries to latch onto his ear. I cling to the remants of my sleep the way a drowning man holds a raft.
"Why don't you look for your motorbike in your room," I suggest pointedly. "Make sure to search as thoroughly and slowly as possible. Maybe under the bed. or in bed. Leave nothing to chance."
"All right!" my son says gamely and bounces off. Calm is restored. It washes over me. Helena and I re-embrace and drift on a healing sea.
Matei bounces back in.
"It is not there. where can my motorbike be Mummy?"
"I don't know. Where did you last play with it? Go look there."
Another cruel eyeblink of time he is back.
"I have not found it," he says.
"Gmmmnnnnphhh," I say.
"I couldn't see it anywhere."
"Mmmmnnnnhhh." I am hoping that a refusal to open my eyes will make him go away. Matei steps up his campaign of being noticed by beginning a play by play account of the Search Process So Far.
"I looked in my room and your room and the bathroom and the kitchen," he says and thumps the sofa for emphasis between each point. "I looked ALLL over there and all over EVERYWHERE and I didn't find it. NOW DO YOU UNDERSTAND MUMMY?"
I grunt but the baby understands the gravity of the situation and responds with a howl.
"Go find something else to play with and I will look for it when I get up," I offer. Although normally this would only produce a torrent of protest, the excellent mood is holding up so off he goes and returns with a Slinky.
"look at me! look at what I can do!"
"Well done! You're playing it like a little Harmonica!"
"A harmonica!" Matei laughs and starts belting out fragments of Singing In the Rain. The baby grunts and moans and flutters her eyelashes.
"Shhhhhh," I say pleadingly. "Go sing to your father."
"But Daddy doesn't like it! He looks sad when I sing to him and sends me to you!"
Note to self: send memo to Z about sacrificing himself for the greater good of his family. Or invest in a parrot to keep Matei company and give him attention.