Sometimes it’s the little things.
The honey-sweet smell of summer sunlight greet him and his family as they bound through the front door. Cloves and cardamon and fresh grass mixed with damp loam like a symphony as they all clatter to the car - shouting over who gets front, who gets back, youngest pulls second-youngest’s hair, but he gets his seat, as he always does, despite the howling and stamping.
Rattle rattle rattle as the car coughs to life. Lurching, a moment of weightlessness and the pull of inertia before they’re soaring away down the road. The wind whips by in a rush, battering at the windows, urging them to wind them down so they do and the car fills with gloriously fresh sun-soaked air. He joins the cacophonous conversation with gleeful abandon and asks where they’re going? The river or the park or the other park or aunty’s house? No-one hears him, but that’s okay. It is a happy day, with the sun and the sky and the smiles, and he is glad he is with them and part of it.
His joints ache a little as he jumps down from the car, but the touch of the grass and the warmth of the air quickly soothe his old bones. A broad smile on his face as the second-youngest hugs him - the oldest running ahead with her parents and a basket smelling tantalisingly of food, leaving a lingering trail like breadcrumbs for them to follow.
And follow it they do, all they way to the big oak tree that harbours memories in the curve of its roots and the reaching branches far above them. He calls out, because there is the youngest cradled in those branches too, but they are laughing and sure-footed and he cannot follow, so instead contents himself with watching his family and the ducks creeping close in hope of food. They are silly ducks, to think they would get any leftovers, but they are part of the day so they are welcome. The sun is warm on his back as he sprawls with the eldest in the shade, and he listens to her read her latest book. He doesn’t understand all the words, but he can taste her joy like sweet candy rolled between teeth and tongue, and that is more important than mere mouth-sounds.
There is catch and frisbee. Rolling in the grass until feet and faces are grassy and flushed, and then food. Turkey and ham, thick sliced. Mouthwatering. Gone too soon and sweeter for the gentle breeze tickling his ears and running through his hair. Cricket next, and he dashes alongside shorter legs as they run between sticks liberated from bushes and planted upright in the ground, feeling his heartbeat pound against his ribs. Exertion or happiness or a heady mixture of both? He doesn’t care in this moment. All that matters is the wind and running and the ball and his family, together.
Eventually the day has to end. All days do, even the best. Tempers fraying slightly as the darkness begins to draw closer, and there’s small snaps and nips as they pile back into the car. Youngest can’t find a shoe and mother is exasperated. Second-youngest snickers - shoe is in their lap, under blanket. Doors slam, engine rumbles back to life and hums them home.
Electric lights smelling bitter spill from the open door and the last vestiges of the day fade on the horizon as they stumble inside. He is pushing between legs, asking for hugs, but they are tired and don’t have time for him right now. So he goes to his bed and curls up with his tail over his nose, smelling the last vestiges of honeyed summer sunlight clinging to his family. Today was a good day. Tomorrow will be a good day too, he is sure of it. So long as they are together.