I am half way out the driveway before I realize, or rather my feet tell me, that I've forgotten shoes. It's the end of a very, very long day and what energy I have left is spent gathering up the rest of the recycling and taking it out to the waiting container on the sidewalk - where it sits for tomorrow's pick up.
The air has not yet cooled to the temperature that defines the nights here in the Northwest, and it's doubtful that it will anytime soon. Fans whizz in windowsills, air conditioners whir busily and neighbors are restless in their beds.
The heat has got us all of kilter.
She trods behind me, in her same bare feet, although it's after 10pm.
"Can I help you momma?" she asks when she sees me, arms full of water bottles and yesterdays newspapers.
"Of course you can little one."
So I hand her a bottle and out we go, to put it in it's place.
The quietness of the night always calms me, always comforts me, always makes me aware. It's darkness and stillness hide the realities that the daylight reveal and somehow, it's soothing.
After closing the massive lid on the bin, she's standing, arms outstretched toward me, willing me to pick her up. Her long legs wrap nearly around my whole body as she forms herself like a baby kangaroo to me and she points up to the clear sky.
"Thems a lot of stars up there momma."
"There sure are," I say back - making sure to use the "there" instead of the "thems" - a ritual I find myself repeating a lot these days.
We gaze into the blackness, into the nothing, into the air and we breathe. She feels like she never left my womb, never became herself, like we are one again. I take her back toward the house, walking slowly so as to prolong this moment, it's breathless contentment, it's perfectness.
The cool concrete beneath my feet, I walk her back to the lights of home. Back to the whirring and the buzzing and the open windows to try to find sleep in the hot, hot night. But for a moment, she is that babe again, that little being dependent on me and only me.
To think, there will be a day when I can no longer lift her . . .