He falls. Skins his knee, scrapes his elbow. I run to help him, give him a hug, inspect the damage, tell him he’ll be alright. And he lets me — but just for a minute. Then he turns and looks around, Where is she?
She’s coming, running, ready to do her job. He jumps up, runs the rest of the way to her. Both have arms open wide for the healing hug that only she can give.
It happens again and again. The two of them know their roles perfectly. He trips, she hugs. All better. Best friends.
At night, it starts with a giggle. Some rustling, a laugh. We hear them talking, telling stories, playing games. Manchild is telling them about his favorite Pokemon, or about how Calvin (and Hobbes) is so funny. Squish is pulling off some sort of physical humor (probably hitting his own head over and over again) while his siblings laugh. Little Miss wows her brothers with the fearlessness with which she breaks the “no climbing on the top bunk” rule.
It’s music and it’s magic and I listen in disbelief. It’s actually happening. They are friends. Pals. Buddies. Allies.
Sometimes it ends with a knock on the door (which we’ve locked so they’ll actually stay put and go to sleep). Someone isn’t in her own bed. Someone is keeping someone else awake. Someone needs to use the bathroom. The spell is broken as the parents intervene.
But when the door closes again, the music starts back up.
It sounds like a fight. Raised voices. Demands. Ultimatums. Sometimes there are tears. But I try to listen carefully to what’s going on in the back seat as we ride around on the bike and hear instead, “I like you. I want to play with you. You’re my favorite. I think you’re funny. Let’s play!”
It’s hard to hear sometimes, but it’s there. And it’s worth putting up with the crying and the whining and the occasional wrestling match because sometimes even best friends fight.
When all is calm and dark and quiet, and it’s time for us to finally head to bed, too, we crack the door, tiptoe in, scan the beds to see who is where. Sometimes it’ll take a few seconds to locate them all.
I’ll have a hard time finding Little Miss amidst the stuffed animals as big as she is.
Squish will be lost under the blankets — even with the blazing heat of summer.
And Manchild has surprised us once or twice by having descended from the top bunk to join his buddies in the fray down below.
Thick as thieves, partners in crime, they egg each other on and have each other’s backs.