“Is it a drop-off party?” she asks.
She asks the same question every time. Half the time I kiss her goodbye and watch the clock for two hours. Half the time I make small talk and try to decide whether or not I’ll have a piece of cake.
“I’m not sure.” I reply.
“I don’t want you to leave.”
I lift her up so that she can see the choices. Dozens of tiny bottles in rows. Mostly a study in reds and pinks but she finds the sparkly midnight blue and falls in love.
A few years ago, a neighbor mentioned taking her daughter with her for a pedicure. I got all giddy at the thought of it. How sweet! I couldn’t wait and started plotting out when this could be a thing for us too. “Well,” my neighbor replied, “it’s really the only way you get to go.”
We settle into the chair and she puts her feet in the water between mine. We don’t chat much but occasionally she will tilt her head back and say, “I’m so glad we’re doing this.” She says it a few times. “I’m so glad we’re doing this.” And whether or not this is the only way I get to have someone pamper my toes, I’m so glad we’re doing this too.
We walk in and there are hugs and little girls squealing but no crowd of parents milling about. The birthday girl announces that the party is downstairs. And they’re gone in a flash.
The mom we walked in with says goodbye and makes a fast exit. Another mom and I look at the dad for guidance. “We should wrap up by 4!” he says.
“Mommy, I had so much fun knitting with you last night!” she says, as we make her bed on Sunday morning.
A few months ago I bought a knitting kit. The box promised enough yarn to make a pair of very colorful fingerless gloves. We knitted a few rows before loosing track. And when I say ‘we’ I mean I knitted and she managed the yarn and sat next to me. In the past few days, this kit has resurfaced and she’s been asking to knit. So we put aside reading and stories last night and we knitted before bed. Just a few rows. We made very little progress. But we were curled up in bed together. We talked about what the gloves would look like. How she would accessorize them. We talked about the women I had seen knitting at the coffee shop where I worked on Friday afternoon. We worked a few rows and we chatted. We had so much fun.
I walk down the stairs and find my girl already deep into the party. The basement is set up like a vet’s office and my girl is registering her stuffed cheetah with the ‘doctor.’ I kneel down, placing my hand on her shoulder.
“I’m going to go, ok?” I ask, testing the waters, to see if this is really ok.
“Ok, bye mommy.” she replies. She looks tentative, shy, but not unsure. I smile and give her a hug. I linger by the steps before heading up and out. But she’s fine. I’ll worry for two hours and arrive well before 4. But she’s fine.
The coffee shop has been playing Neil Young all morning. I don’t ever put Neil Young on by choice but when he is put on for me, I will always get swept away by the strange sound of his voice and the wistfully sad melodies. “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” comes on and it takes me to the night she was born. Somehow that rather depressing song made it onto the playlist we took with us to the hospital. I don’t think it was actually the one playing as she came into the world but I associate it with those moments – the last ones before her and the first ones with her. And so I sit in the coffee shop, staring out the window, thinking back four years and 50 weeks to a quietly life changing morning.
She sees me as I enter the backyard and shouts, “Mommy!” and in the next breath, “I don’t wanna go.” But we do and she is polite, hugs for her friend, thank yous for the parents. We head home, play some more, and before bed she says she wants to knit again. So we do and she tells me about the party and school and friends. She draws the yarn out of the skein for me and somehow the yarn draws stories out of her. And I’m still thinking about almost five years ago and I don’t understand at all how we are here, knitting and chatting and curled up in bed. And sometimes it does get me down. How fast this is all going, how I drop her off at places now, how she’s ok with that, how she is happy to be someplace and doesn’t want to leave.
But then there are the pedicures. And the knitting.
And I’m so glad we’re doing this. I’m having so much fun.