I merely watched as my daughter knelt and tapped her friend on the shoulder. “Bye…I’m leaving now,” she said. “Thanks for having me.”
But there was no response. Just five pairs of hands intermingled all trying to clip a new accessory on Polly Pocket.
My daughter tapped her friend again.
Her friend smiled but then turned her attention back to Polly Pocket and Polly’s new changing room palace. The four girls sitting around her did the same.
My daughter leaned in one more time. “I got you this,” she beamed. “This present– it’s from me.” Then she slipped away from the crowd.
Polly Pocket had a been a hit.
As we straddled the speed bumps out of her friend’s neighborhood, I couldn’t hold it in anymore. “Honey,” I said, “you make me so proud.” Then with occasional glances from the rearview mirror, I recounted how this morning she’d been so quick to choose Polly Pocket for her friend—the Polly Pocket she’d hoped would have been hers–the Polly Pocket she knew her friend would love…
I was still affirming her decision when she said so…so understandingly. “Mommy… sometimes giving is better than getting.”
Sniff…I love this kid.
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It was when my son darted out of the bathroom with his shoulders hunched like he was protecting a football, that I noticed the animal clinic in the living room was treating patients at the same rate we were running out of toilet paper.
Stuffed puppies and kitties were spread across couches in critical condition. Easter bunnies of every size had sore feet. But the cure, I noted, had been found in toilet paper. Lots. Of toilet paper.
My daughter held out her arms for me to see the near-body cast she’d prepared for her brother’s puppy. I stroked what I could find of its fake fur.
But I didn’t grasp my daughter’s heart for what she was doing until…
until she asked hours later from the backseat of the van, “do you know what you could buy me for my birthday, mommy?”
I shook my head. I didn’t know.
“My own roll of toilet paper.”
I was slow to follow. So she continued.
“So I can take care of all my animals.”
I got it.
Toilet paper. For her animals.
I don’t know where this child came from. Only that I suddenly want to give her all she never asked for.
In western Washington we do desperate things.
Like go to a park in between downpours.
Only we don’t go so much because we’re crazy…ahem…but because going crazy is what we’re trying to prevent.
I don’t know if it’s working.
Deep down we know there’s nothing attractive about a wet play area. Especially for the first guy down the slide. But the puddles on the path back to the van…heh. Why…
why these are the reason we came.
Nevermind that in four minutes two kids and a cousin won’t have a dry stitch between them. Or that the water emptied from six boots could fill a small aquarium.
And completely nevermind that the guy in the orange coat will peel down to just his undies and his orange coat and hobble back to the van. Or that the whole lot of them will ride home scarcely dressed.
Because without warning…it was a puddle party.
And, well, it just might have been the best tangent we took all day.
We were in the middle of our trip headed north on Interstate 5–the trip that with a heavy foot, minimal traffic, and a four-minute potty stop on the side of the road is exactly two hours from our house–when our son shared his first epiphany.
“Hey,” he shouted from the backseat. “I’m not even barfing.”
My husband and I nodded our genuine approval–a kid not upchucking in the van was good–real good.
Our daughter, though, didn’t miss the moment and exclaimed with equal amazement, “and you’ve hardly complained either.”
By which time our son looked himself over with wide eyes and shouted what he couldn’t believe, “HEY, I’m not complaining!”
And about this, well, neither were we.
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The conversation lasted a bite and a half of ice cream…such that when it was over, I wondered if it hadn’t been the ice cream doing the talking.
I’d been sitting with my legs crossed at the table when my son leaned his whole body up against mine and said sincerely, ”I wish I was in heaven.”
I’m sure my eyebrows raised.
“Why?” I reflexed.
“Because Jesus is there.”
Then the question bubbled out of him, ”Can we go?”
It’s my own answer I don’t remember–or if I even had one. My son had skittered away and was unraveling a map of California. And my ice cream was puddling on the spoon.
But I’d have held his cheeks between my hands and said, “yes, son. Yes. Some day we will be in heaven…hanging out with Jesus.”
I’m convinced, though, that in his four-year old wisdom…he already knows.
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Other than grass and mud, I don’t know what this is. Something important, though.
I only know that when I looked outside from the back door, I saw two kids sittin’ in the sunshine, quiet as the breeze, hand-plucking grass because…because they wanted to.
There wasn’t a whisper between them and I know I’d have watched their grass-pulling innocence for at least another minute…if…
if I hadn’t creaked the back step.
Only I did.
By which time both kids snapped from their private reverie to show me their grass collection.
My daughter had hers crammed in a yogurt cup.
And my son had his, well, over his face.
Uh…nevermind his sister’s pink snow boots.
Or the squirt gun he might’ve used to hose off his mother.
What mattered for the moment was how much peace and promise the sunshine brought.
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Our septic tank buried somewhere in the backyard may disagree, but according to our son who was standing in the doorway with a satisfied smile and his pants at his ankles, he… “had the hang of the wipe.”
That our son’s wipe technique means we’re down a third of a roll of toilet paper and left with a gasping toilet is of lesser concern. What matters is how proud our new wiper is. Of himself.
how completely okay I am to be relegated to ‘bun checker’ (to spare the undies).
I was certain the ‘good’ life began when we kicked the diapers to the curb. But this…this devout wiping on his own…um…I don’t know…seems heaven be shining down on the Munsons.
Just, uh, pray for our toilet when you get a chance.
We’d hardly exited the van, when my daughter took my hand and said longingly, “let’s just shop for everything we need.”
But the truth was…we didn’t need much. We’d just left a half-assembled lasagna hanging out on the kitchen counter because I’d forgotten the ricotta cheese.
I’d asked quickly, “you want to come?” And with little ado, my daughter and I had zipped away for cheese.
But the urgency of our trip never never struck my daughter. Nor did the fact that it was already seven thirty p.m. and eating homemade lasagna sometime before everyone went to bed had been a notion.
Instead my daughter asked to push the cart, to spot the cheese, to count the coins, and to carry the bag.
By which time I realized I couldn’t remember the last time the two of us had gone anywhere together…alone.
Some time after nine p.m. our lasagna made it to the table.
But some time before that, my daughter and I had puttered home slowly–just the two of us. And it’d been worth it…
every extra minute.
Sometimes…even when the sun doesn’t shine, we smile anyway. We have to. We need to.
We smile because of preschool-made bunny ears on a striped rabbit.
We smile because of clouds that hold out for a half an hour and for a mower we can shove and yank across the back yard.
We smile for overdo haircuts.
And for Saturday mornings with movies we can hee-haw through for our tenth time.
We smile because sometimes there’s sun.
And we smile because always…if we dig deep enough…
The can of refried beans that our son held against his ear shed a little light on who had and who hadn’t been playing with the home phone.
“If you’d like to make a call,” our son began, “please hang up and dial again.”
My husband and I exchanged crinkled brows. “What the…?”
By which time our son informed the person on the other end of his bean can–a third time– that if he wanted to make a call, he’d have to hang up and try his call again.
It was our daughter who finally reported that her brother was in the other room still ’making calls’. Only the wording had changed– ”if you’d like to make a call, please hang up your coat.”
Ahem…all right then.
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