I am walking as quietly as I can, trying not to draw attention to myself. It is quiet and cool downstairs, and there are no adults around to tell me no, don’t wake up the baby. I look up the empty stairwell, and listen for the tell-tale fall of parental footsteps.
Clutching my treasure under my arm, I push lightly on the door beside me and edge it open. From here in the hallway, door cracked ever so slightly, I can see the wooden crib against the wall. The walls are sunshine-yellow, their summery glow enhanced by the late-afternoon sunlight that slants in through the opposite window in a warm puddle. I push the door a little further, looking at the chubby baby sleeping in the crib.
I remember her wearing a yellow and white striped seersucker outfit, but it may have been blue and white, or pink and white.
Everything is washed with gold in this memory.
She sits up, sleepy eyed. She has fat cheeks and fat legs, and fat little fists. Her cheeks are flushed with sleep, lined from the wrinkles of her crib sheet. Her hair is a mussy golden crown of curls. She is sucking on a pacifier. When she sees me, she grabs the bars of her crib and pulls herself toward me, her cornflower blue eyes wide. She is expectant, eager. She knows why I have come.
I sit down cross-legged on the floor in front of my little sister and open the book I am carrying. Slowly and carefully, I begin to read her a story, stumbling a little over the half-unfamiliar words of my first reader.