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Letters to Gabriel (five)

This is my favorite time and place.

I walk into the house after my grocery run. Michael Jackson or Elton John or maybe Leon Bridges is singing.

A cookbook from one of your dad’s favorite chefs sits open to a new recipe.

Saffron orange chicken over fennel, mint, and basil. I love when he cooks a weekend meal on a Monday.

After I hurry over to kiss your cheek, my foot catches a toy car, sending me skating across the hardwood.

Perched in your high-chair, you let out a belly laugh.

I recover and holler, “Alexa.”

You turn toward the speaker to deliver your own command, “Aaa Aaa…,” and sway back and forth to try to get your wish across. I translate, “Turn up the music.”

You clap and look up at us for encouragement.

We give it in full.

“Yay, Gabriel!”

Dad sets down his pairing knife and I set down the grocery bag to clap along.

You lean to your left, then right, left, then right.

Then your head gets into it. Your baby fro bobs wildly at the same rate, keeping pace with "Remember the Time."

“Dee dee daa daa…” you sing along.

Between chopping and sautéing, your dad and I take turns dicing leftovers. Brisket from our dinner at Monks BBQ. Black beans from last night’s tacos. Strawberries and watermelon from breakfast.

You don’t care.

Your chubby hands clumsily grab for your bite-sized dinner. Only about half makes it up to your lips. But the bits that do send you dancing again.

Arms swinging. Head bobbing. Hands slapping.

In a few minutes, you’ll want down. You’ll want to play. We’ll want to wipe off your face. We’ll dampen a washcloth and go in. You’ll let out a squeal in protest. You’ll push our hands away.

But not just yet.

Until then ...

this is my favorite time and place.

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