I barely recognized your voice when you crept up behind me as I was unloading the supermarket haul.
"Can I help?"
"Sure," I said, happy for just the company as well as the extra hands.
I smiled as you remarked on every item you touched, taking it on its final journey from shopping tote to refrigerator shelf. It's just now dawning on me how long your reach has grown.
"I love these kind of pickles. ... This juice is heavy, I'm not sure I can lift it myself. ... Oh! You got the yogurt I like, thanks mom. You're the best mom I ever had."
I'm laughing a little as I climb on the step stool to stack boxes of pasta in the cupboard at the end of the counter. I begin my usual response: "I'm the only mom you've ever had, and don't confuse consumerism with competency. ...
You snort, and wave your hand in the air. "I know, I know, I know. ... You're still the best."
I wonder when you got to be so big. It wasn't a month ago that I still saw your baby face beaming at me from behind an alphabet book. Your limbs seem to have branched outward in recent days. You are long and lean. More graceful than gangly.
The alarm on the refrigerator sounds. The door has been open for too long.
I turn to see what the trouble is, envisioning you wrestling a melon into the crisper drawer or trying to alphabetize the mustard jars.
But you are gone and the light from the refrigerator is shining on the empty bags, shapeless and slumped on the floor in front of it.
Your part of the task is over.
I shut the door and begin to smooth the bags. And I hear your voice -- the one I've known since your first words -- bubbling through the kitchen doorway. It's coming from a far room that's been filtered through two other spaces, and followed by the unmistakable sound of children jumping on a bed.
"Let me help you with that. ..."
With love and fancy yogurt,