I've told you about Luke. He's my two and a half-year old playmate, my fellow ruffian and cuddle bunny all rolled into a sweaty, mischievous pile of boy. He also happens to be Madison's youngest brother.
Our game of "catch me; catch what I throw at you; come and find me" has been ongoing for two months now. Of course, we have to stop here and there for short breaks. I mean, he lives in one house and I live in another, and there are all those naps to take and meals to eat and family obligations to fulfill. But the moment we're in the same room together, play resumes right where we left off.
This morning, after church, I was trying to have an adult conversation with another tall person, when I looked down the aisle and caught Luke advancing toward me. As soon as he saw me looking at him, the gig was up. He tossed stealth to the side and came running straight at me. I didn't even have time to apologize to Heidi, because before I could say a word, Luke had leapt in the air--a la Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon--and attached his little octopus suction cups to my arms and legs.
Heidi recognized defeat. She got the rest of her sentence out all in a rush: "OkaythenI'llseeyouattheYtomorrowat8:30," and wisely backstepped out of the play arena.
I held Luke close and tickled him. He pretended to want me to stop. I grabbed his chunky little legs and poked my finger under his armpits and blew raspberries on his exposed side, just under the edge of his t-shirt. At one point, I couldn't help myself--he'd thrown his head back to laugh and there was all this neck skin just begging to be bitten, so I did. I took a very mild, very polite nibble. And Luke, well-trained, listens-to-his-mama Luke, said, "Hey! No biting." But he said it between giggles.
He decided we ought to spend a little time throwing his red Matchbox car back and forth at each other. He tossed it toward me, I sent it skittering across the floor, then he threw it back to me the way you'd skip a rock across the lake. This went on for about 90 seconds, and then Luke, obeying a stopwatch seen only by him, decided some hand-holding and dragging was in order. So he grabbed my hand and tugged me in and out of the rows of chairs, until another silent ding went off and he switched us back to tickle.
That boy tuckered us both out. Laughing, we stopped for a moment to catch our breath. He hooked his hands around my forearms and smiled up at me. I looked down at his hot little face and thought, I love you. So I said it. And right at the exact moment those words came out of my mouth, Luke said, "I love you."
Our love for each other passed in mid air. It made me say, "Oh!" and it made Luke grin. And then he decided he wanted to prove his affection. With a rather stern, commanding voice, he said, "Stay here." He then walked over to the refreshment table, grabbed a quarter of a banana nut muffin, and walked back to me. With great flourish, he broke off a miniscule section of that muffin, held both pieces up, surveyed them both carefully, and handed the smallest piece to me. I knew he really meant it, then.
I took a tiny bite and handed the rest back to him. Then he knew I meant it too.