It's just her and me in the early morning, before breakfast, before siblings, before sunrise. We talk and snuggle under a blanket on the couch, waiting for the toast to pop or the oatmeal to cool. Her fingers are cold. Her smile is slow. Her words are quiet.
A light burns behind her pupils and she's remembered something:
"Hey! I had a dream about Mr. Landon last night!" She is faraway now, pulling at strands of what must be a receding wisp.
"About Landon? Our baby boy?"
She rolls her eyes. "No, not that Landon. Remember the Landon who helped with summer school? He's a teenager? Mr. Landon?"
"Ohhhh," I say. "Well what happened in your dream?"
She opens her mouth to spill the beans, then thinks better of it. "I actually don't want to talk about it."
"You don't? Why not?"
"It's too embarrassing!" She scoots back into the couch cushions, making herself scarce. "I just had a dream about him and that's all you need to know, okay?"
"Okay..." But I'm suspicious now. My first grader had an embarrassing dream about an older boy? What's happening here? Why must they grow up?
I leave it alone, a pile of un-teased threads on a soft fabric that isn't mine to unfurl. The day passes. I think of other things, but mostly, of my first baby girl. The one who seems to be in love with a boy in her dreams. I promise myself that I won't question further. I'll avoid the subject. I'll wait patiently. I'll be disinterested.
So when we sit down for a snack after school, of course, the first thing out of my mouth is, "If I don't look at you when you answer, can I ask you a question about your dream?"
"See? I'm not watching you!" I turn my eyes to the corner where the cabinets meet the wall. "Did Mr. Landon hold your hand in the dream?"
She is quiet so that I think she's not going to put up with me much longer. Then:
A reply! "Oh. Did he dance with you?"
She giggles. "No, mom."
"Huh. Did....he...give you a kiss?"
I turn to look at her, breaking my promise. She is proud and nonchalant. Like this conversation is almost below her recognition and she can't imagine why I'm interested.
"But he did give me some popcorn." A smile tugs at the corners of her mouth, and her eyebrows quirk up. "And he had to look all over the whole school so he could find me." She picks up an apple slice and takes a bite through her spreading grin.
I laugh and she joins me.
"Popcorn?" I shake my head. Of course it was popcorn. The stuff dreams are made of, apparently.