Little Girl - I think I've told you - lives to get up early.
So do I. Or, often, I have to get up early to get to a job site before seven or so.
It isn't unusual for the two of us to share the morning hours just after, or sometimes before, dawn.
So it was the other morning when, sitting at the computer in the front window, I heard the soft scuffle of blankets and the then thumping of small feet coming down the hallway and turn to see Little Miss emerging from the hall; tousleheaded and sleepy-eyed, clutching her favorite pink kittycat blanket in one hand and her beloved "stripey wubbie" in the other. She did as she often does; airborne-shuffled over to the couch, made herself a nest of blankets, wubbie, and pillows, and curled up near the armrest in a warm little-girl pile.
And I did what I often do; went and got a cup of coffee (black as night, hot as sin, rich and earthy and sweetened with cream) and sat down on the couch with her.
She took a moment or two to rearrange herself so she was cuddled up against my side and tucked her glossy black head under my arm. From the way she was sitting I could tell that I was in for a busy morning.
Sometimes the Girl get up but doesn't really wake up. When she does she just drapes herself over me and goes back to sleep. Or dozes on top of me quietly.
Those are very peaceful mornings, but rare. Usually once Little Miss is out of bed she's ready to start asking about the world around her. I enjoy hearing what's on her mind, and we are both more morning persons than not, so I waited for her first question.
Missy is the Girl of A Thousand Questions.
What is air? Why are ducks? When did you live with pre-Mommy? Why was Quinn Dog so dumb? She can and will ask questions about anything and everything. She also asks questions that you know she knows the answer to, or questions to which you have just told her the answer; she seems to do this because she likes making you answer. The Girl just likes to ask questions.
This morning's was: "Why did you and Mommy get married?"
I explained to her about how I loved Mommy and wanted to be together with her, and how we got certain tax breaks for being married, and plus it was a promise we made to each other that meant that we felt a special way about each other.
"What are tax breaks?" asked Little Miss, but before long she got bored with the explanation and asked:
"Why was The Boy in Mommy's tummy when you got married?"
I reminded her about how we had lost Baby Bryn, and how we wanted to have another baby, who turned out to be her big brother.
She thought about that for a while, and then asked: "When DID you make Baby Peeper?"
I tried to think the timing back, and explained that we had made him some time earlier that year, probably in the springtime.
"How do you make babies?"
Hmmm. Okay; well, I explained that grown-up men and women made babies by having sex, making love. From there we embarked on a digression about heterosexual reproduction, which involved discussing plants and animals and how they were the same and different than people. Missy said that she knew how people made babies; by humping. I said that Mommy and I had felt safer staying with the tried-and-true methods, so that was how we had made Baby Peeper.
"By humping?" squealed Missy incredulously, confronting for the first time (but probably not the last) the icky possibility that her mom and dad had...you know...ick!
And I should add that Missy knows about humping because...well, she does. I don't know where kids pick up this stuff; probably from one of her daycare or first grade pals. She does know about dogs humping, since she's seen it, and that Quinn the Dog used to hump his beloved chewie toy Mister Prickles and sort of understands what it means when people do it. I have questioned her and understand that she doesn't know exactly how it works, which is exactly what she then asked me then.
Nothing like a clinical question about sex from a seven-year-old at 6:30 in the morning to jump start your brain. I tried to figure out how to explain this without using terms that Little Girl wouldn't understand.
"Ummm...well, the thing is, the man has his sperm (remember, it's like the pollen from the boy part of the plant..?) inside his 'nards. And he uses his wiener to put it inside the woman's body, into a place where she has an egg called the uterus."
"How does he get it in there."
"Well, he puts his wiener in her puff-puff."
"In her puff-puff! That's GROSS!" the little one cried.
Well, yeah, it's a grown up thing, I said. Right now it seems pretty gross to you and it SHOULD.
But that's because you're little and your body aren't ready to make babies. When you're older, about 14 or 15, though, your body is going to change. You'll get this thing called "puberty". The shape of your body will change, and some things it will do will change (and if you think I was then going to get into the subject of menstruation, you're fucking nuts...), and most of all it will change some things inside your brain. You will start thinking about other people - boys, maybe, mostly, though some girls think this way about other girls - not just as people but as people that you might make babies with."
"Ewwww! I don't want to make babies."
Not now you don't, and that's good; you shouldn't want to make babies. But when your body changes it will change some of the way you think about things and people. It will want you to make babies so it can do with it's made for. So it will make you think differently about some people, even people you probably shouldn't want to think that way about, because it's not smart and just wants to make babies. Sometimes your body isn't very smart about making babies."
"Why does it want to make babies?"
So there will be more people. It's the same with flowers and trees and kitty cats and people; our bodies, like the cats and the flowers, are designed to make new people and cats and plants. But...here's the thing; we're smarter than cats and flowers. We don't HAVE to make babies unless we want to, or until we're ready to. So when your body says "Ooh! Make babies! Make babies!" your brain has to say: "Shuttup, you dummy! I'm not ready to make babies!" So you tell your body that it's not time for humping.
And sometimes that's hard, because your body gets kinda stupid. So you have to be smarter than your body.
"I don't want to hump anything, so I'm smarter than my body or you or Mommy or Peeper, 'cause he probably wants to hump stuff."
I suggested that he probably didn't and received a skeptical look in return; her brother is often the Root of All Evil. But the answer seemed to satisfy her.
Missy sucked her thumb for a bit, and peeped up;
"Who is smarter, you, or Mommy?"
I looked down at the warm little body curled up beside me, remembering her lost older sister and her mother's grief for her, how her mother cried in the night during the seeming endless fortnight in China, her soul flayed by what I think I described as "...the fraying delicacy of closening exhaustion" as she pursued the dream of a little girl to raise and love.
Of how so much of who this little person is - her warmth, her love, her curiosity, her feisty gentleness - mirrors her mother because my bride's bottomless well of patience and love has instilled them in her or fostered those of them already there.
Of how much of our success as a family is because of my wife, her mother.
Of how bright and curious and intelligent the little girl beside me was growing, and how clever (and know-it-all-ish and independent) her brother has become.
How lucky I am to have a houseful of smart, loving people around me.
I smiled out at the growing light, took a drink and pressed my coffee-warm lips to the cool sheen of her hair.
"I think you are, Little Question. Then Mommy. Then Peeper. Then maybe me."
"Well, you ARE pretty dumb, Daddy." she signed happily, wriggling deeper into her blanket-nest, silent for a moment. I listened contentedly to the silence.
For a moment.
"Why did Quinn like to hump Mister Prickles."