Just when I was thinking I hadn’t done anything this summer, I get a bug in my ear to find something I know I posted to my timeline back in March. I didn’t think I was the most prolific FB poster, but was surprised at the fun we’ve had so far; things I had almost forgotten about it.
Is it still forgetting if you remember once you see a picture of it? Hmmm.
We’re short a child this week, our big girl is at camp, and not just any camp. This camp has cabins with window shutters that prop open and can be pulled down with a rope from the inside. These cabins sit on stilts up off the ground, they made me think of The Parent Trap, and I was looking everywhere for a set of twins who would come dancing out, desperate to reunite their divorcing parents.
Instead there were G and my big girl, caught up in the momentary, and what I truly believe is a very feminine bustle, of getting their beds made, their water bottles on the shelves, their towels and bathing suits out for a swimming test. Doing what we do when we get nervous: cooking, baking, cleaning, moving around living rooms and cleaning out closets, all to keep the panic at bay.
I grabbed Kai in a big hug before we left. I appreciate that she is very like me. I appreciate that her tongue is sharper than she means it to be, that she gets all fired up and can’t be tamped down easy. That she is not the physical being that her family members can be. But I needed to hug on her and I did.
I am working on a letter to her, full of first day of school litanies.
It goes something like this:
You are remarkable.
You are kind. You are funny and brave and friendly and smart. You are beautiful.
This girl and I have gone rounds, with our matching smart mouths and long, slow burning tempers. With our ability to almost instantly forgive.
We’ve watched movies and read the same books and discussed the possibility of time travel and true love at first sight.
We have lived through temper tantrums and younger sisters and doddering dogs. Endless episodes of The Wiggles, countless nights spent around a campfire without a s’more in sight because I am terrible at planning things like that.
I feel like my time with her is growing short. I feel like she is forming so rapidly into the person she will be when she leaves me that it’s almost like a time lapse of the weather from some tower camera. A sky that moves and changes so quickly you can scarce take it in.
She’s gone from fluffy little fifth grader to tall and sleek sixth grader, with her crown of shining golden hair and her Granny’s green eyes. From playing with dolls to changing clothes ten times a day, and all in the space of about a hot second.
We saw a puppy at camp, and he looked just like D did when we brought him home, the same night my old dog, Whiskey, was put down. And now Whiskey lies in repose under a lilac bush in Grand Haven, and Dakota lies in his dog bed and watches the world go by out the glass front door.
He came outside today with me, and he sniffed around bit, located his ball on a lawn chair and took a long leisurely pee with the ball in his soft mouth. He brought it to me only after I asked, dropped it at my feet and tried to rustle up some enthusiasm for what would come next: the inevitable toss, the running, the finding of a ball that he can’t see anymore. And, I imagine, the shame, that he couldn’t find it and bring it back for me, who fancies herself to be his favorite person.
I tossed it. He looked longingly, wonderingly, at the yard, and he walked away.
But just yesterday he was that puppy we saw at camp, small, a mouth full of razor sharp teeth.
But just yesterday she was wearing a Dora nightgown and singing along, Dora, Dora, Dora the Explorer!
And just last week I am sure that the dog could swim across Lake Arbutus, that he could follow his dad in the kayak and end up at the girl scout camp on the opposite shore. That he would come up out of the lake dripping and smiling and shaking all that water off himself.
And I’m pretty sure that the first week of kindergarten just happened, with that disinterested teacher, that thriving daycare with all of it’s wild little girls running rampant over a huge property in a pack.
Have you seen that Facebook thing about how I think the 90’s were just last year? I’m pretty sure I’m there, that I am being amazed at the swan-like neck of a green eyed girl and the refusal to fetch a ball that can’t be easily picked out anymore in a sea of green grass.
What initially inspired this post, almost a month after the last time I wrote anything other than an email, or a note in a claim file, is that I was reading Anne Tyler write about the swing of a jump rope. About how quick that is, how fast things can change, things that seemed immovable and solid and permanent.
It seemed I was mired in diapers and sippy cups, in tantrums, for so long. And now I have a child who is learning a vocabulary to rival my own.
It seemed I was doomed to have chewed on table legs and underwear and books and shoes, and now the favorite place for the body of that great and beating noble heart to be is his soft bed, watching the world drift by.
I don’t know what the point of this is other than to prove how ill-prepared I always seem to be.
And because I am inside of this life, I guess it seems permanent and lasting.
But we must always be ready to jump, always looking outside the circle, to the kids playing on the swings, overhearing the chants of our friends and being soothed by the way the rope shooshes when it hits the ground.
I love you.