It is the early morning call of the native species Three-Year-Oldus-Crazy-Makus. She has woken and now needs an adult to come in and release her from her squishy puddle of doonas and toys and pillow pets.
I open the door and a streak of light falls across her low bed. Her little face glows like the moon and it breaks into a smile.
‘Watch you doin’?’ she asks. She reminds me of Gary Coleman in Diff’rent Strokes. I keep my observation to myself. It’s unlikely she will ever get the joke.
‘I want a cuddle,’ I tell her as I climb into her bed and pull the doonas over us.
‘Me too,’ she replies and curls her chubby little arm around my neck.
We lie in silence watching each other in the dim light.
‘I need tissue,’ she whispers.
So I haul myself out of her bed, blindly reaching out on the bookshelf for the tissue box. I am knocking small toys and random objects off the shelf as I fumble in the dark.
Finding the box I crawl back into her bed and hand her a tissue. She expertly blows her nose before handing it back to me. ‘Here Mum,’ she says. Like the servant I am.
A little finger makes its way into her nose and she extracts something. She peers at it in the dark for a moment before pointing the finger – and booger – in my direction. ‘Here Mum,’ she says. I ignore the finger.
The house is quiet at this time of the morning. It’s still dark outside and it’s warm in her bed, although she smells faintly of pee. It’s a smell you get used to. I wish I didn’t have to admit that.
She puts her arm around me and moves her little face towards mine. She bumps her nose against mine then kisses me. Once. Twice.
‘You smell like wee,’ I say to her. Not unkindly.
‘No I don’t,’ she replies indignantly.
‘Well, it’s not me who smells like wee,’ I say.
‘It is. It is you,’ she says gravely.
I smile at her and her beautiful face erupts like the dawns. I still find it difficult to fathom how much joy this little child both contains and emanates. She is like the sun, radiating smiles, warming hearts.
She waves at everyone and sees everything. ‘Hello,’ she will say to the man emptying rubbish bins as we walk to daycare. ‘Goodbye’ she will wave to the teenaged students as they hurry home, weighed down with books. Her smiles spread across their faces.
‘Put light Mum,’ she asks me, so I climb out of bed and flick on the little lamp. She reaches for a plastic violin bow and starts pointing at the alphabet quilt on the wall. I think she is pretending to play X for Xylophone but she huffs at me. ‘No! A C,’ she demands.
I use the bow to point to the letters as we make our way through the alphabet. She repeats them after me, only coming unstuck on ‘U’ for Umbrella.
‘U’ I say.
‘Me,’ she replies.
‘You,’ I say and bend down for a hug. She expertly grips on and as I stand I have no choice but to bring her up with me. She is a baby koala, and will latch on regardless of whether I hold her or not.
‘You best my friend Mum’ she says.
‘I love you too,’ I tell her.