The silent dark is broken by the padding of feet, drawing me slowly out of the depths of dreaming. The bedroom door opens a fraction, letting in a thin rectangle of light, then closes, drawing out the light once again. Something else has slipped in with the light. I strain my ears, listening for clues, but there’s only a sixth sense of another presence. Then comes a sigh, softer than the gentlest breeze, and a small sleepy body slips in beside me. Inside the covers, a cold foot presses on my belly.
On winter mornings the darkness lingers. I expect my children to wake with the light, later each morning, until the solstice, but that isn’t what happens. Instead they wake early, 6am, 5am, sometimes even 4am, and shuffle around the house in the cold, waiting for the sun, expecting breakfast and stories and warm fires from me. Every winter I make up rules. Tell them they mustn’t wake so early. Tell them it isn’t fair. Tell them I won’t. But I always do.
They try. For minutes at a time they hold back their restless energy and lie in bed, searching their senses for morning clues. They listen for the stillness before dawn, the distant rush of cars, birds stirring, a change in the feel of things. . . They listen until the exquisite pain of anticipation propels them out of bed and into the new day.