Four is grown up, but not. Mr Four is a small and generally self-possessed gentleman who suffers occasional unfortunate fits of uncontrollable laughter. But Mr Four has dignity. It is the last great age of childhood before they go to school and get corrupted and bring home the schoolyard’s whining jargon, and want what the others want.
In the morning he comes to the corner and holds his fat arms around my neck and kisses me. Then he lets go, and waves, and runs brightly back around the corner and I go away, and when I come back at night he is always asleep, his eyes tight slits sloping down and his mouth half open, like his baby photo.
Years ago, there was another four-year-old. He was just the same. I must have been twelve, off to school. It is winter, 1969. He comes to the gate with the same self-possession. The same kiss, the same arms around the neck. I wonder now if I was as patient with my brother as I am with his nephew, my son.
Thomas turns five this weekend. And this week, the baby walked.