In the morning, I tuck a robe around my shoulders and shuffle my milk-sticky body through a frozen living room, a frozen hall, and into the kitchen. The world outside the window is pale, damp, defrosting. I pour some peanut butter puffs - the ones I called lazy and then tossed at the grocery cart anyway - into a bowl and top them with milk. I pick a spoon, start water for coffee, flick the light switch with my elbow.
Back through the hall, back through the living room. I can see my breath.
I hand the bowl to Aspen and she spills it immediately, half on the carpet, and half on the brick beside the fireplace. I sigh audibly. "Sorry, mama," she says. She is harvesting peanut butter puffs from the carpet with her fingers, one by one.
We spray the carpet and blot with a towel and explain that this is Nama's house, that we are guests here, that we are so very grateful and that we must be extra careful not to make a mess.
This morning, she turns her head to the side and says, "Not our house?"
"No, my love. We are just here for a while, until we can have a home of our own."
She finds the idea of this remarkable. "My house? For me?"
I nod, folding the milky towel in half, and in half again, trying to soak up the dark spot from the carpet. "One day, we will have our own house. And maybe you and your brother will have your own room. You can paint the walls whatever color you'd like. And you can make lots and lots of messes."
She thinks for a while, and then runs into the garage, where KC is changing the baby into a tiny sweater and pants on our bed.
"Daddy!" I hear her call over the sound of Finn's tin can cry, "We'll have a house! My own house! And we can make lottsa messes, daddy!"
I breathe in. Breathe out. I walk back through the hall, into the kitchen. I pour more cereal. Add more milk. Breathe in. February burns the halls of my nose and wakes the parts of me that are still sleeping. I have never been more content, more happy, less needing, more awake. These days are fast and full and altogether lovely.
We have been homeless for 6 months.
I am grateful. I am trying to be more grateful. And still, I have never ached more strongly for our own space. Not even for myself, but for her. For him.
One day, one day, one day. I am not worried. I can see it rising behind the lids of my eyes, just there, just out of reach. For now, I will make a home for them in the palm of my hands, in the crook of my arm, in the songs I sing as they fall asleep, in the sound of the rain, in the stillness of my breath.