He starts in the early morn, steady and ready, chatting me from slumber. I am able to stall him, for a few more moments of broken sleep, then we are crawling from under the sanctity of heavy quilts and ambling together into the hall. "Carry," he says and wraps his arms around my neck as I bend for him and we descend the stairs on toward checking the fire. His grip reminds me how happy I am to be his Papa. I peek at the thermostat as we pass. "Too cold," it tells me. With a stir and the stoke of a fresh stick or two, flames spring back to life and he exclaims at this miracle, with delight, in words only his closest family can decipher.
A floorboard creeks and sinks a little beneath my weight as we make our way to the couch for a story. While we read, the fire crackles and the stove begins to hum, pulsing heat from the inside out like a great heart of iron. Familiar books with familiar pauses on his favorite spots. Other pages are deliberately skipped each time for no reason of which I am aware. Soon the story is over, his hunger reminds him of a long night of fasting and I am once again pulled from the warmth to travel along his trail into the kitchen.
He prefers I sit as he contemplates the first nibbles of his day. I hold my coffee with two hands and watch for the Sun which will be rising shortly, behind his spiked array of hair. While he is busily engrossed in an english muffin with honey, I scan the outside world. Rays of light reach over the horizon and slice through trees, nearly retracing their path of the morning previous. A hard frost has spread across the landscape and steam rises slowly from its crisp domain. I sip and enjoy the stillness.
Quiet moments can be scarce for baby number four and his Dad.
One by one a family emerges and gathers at the start of a new day. Each body molding a comfortable routine to fit their new surroundings. Animals are let in, animals are let out. Food and water are replenished. A dog uses her nose to pry a pat from a little girl. Warm air circulates and whirls behind foot traffic as children patter into preferred places. Harper accompanies me on all chores that don't involve chainsaws, or other tools of a very loud nature, and we go about the business of our day, spending much of that time together. Tomorrow it will begin again. The daylight will be slightly shifted and shorter than yesterday as autumn spins into winter. It will likely be colder and that fire will want more fuel to burn. And just before daybreak a little boy will stir and remind his Papa that it is time to rise. Time to brave that chill and get started on a new day. We do that together.