We are in Brando, racing down the interstate, and my daughter says, “Mom, spell grass.”
“F-L-O-W-E-R,” I say.
It’s Hollie Bear’s birthday. That’s right, a full year since I wrote this.
I can’t believe it.
There’s a song Hollie and I think of as our song in which the lyrics say, “If you only knew how long I had waited for someone to come along and change my life the way you’ve done.”
We have worked the kid into our life, per my friend Tom’s instructions. She loves football and it’s all we do on Sundays in the fall. She loves Happy Hour and is always game for a stop in at the pub before we head home.
Still, despite our best efforts, she’s changed us. Charlie and I have never been empathetic; we were selfish and blind in so many ways. With her we are in a constant vigil over the impact of words, images, and tone of voice. We are kinder, more compassionate than we’ve ever been.
As she names things we try to identify what associations she’s making. As she asks questions we try to respond fully, honestly, and patiently.
“We need to stop for gas first,” I said, pulling Brando into the Shell station.
“Mom, what’s gas?” Hollie said.
“It’s the liquid we put in cars to make them go.”
“And Brando needs some?”
“And then we’re going home?”
“To see Daddy?”
“Yes. First gas, then home.”
A few seconds pass.
“Mom, what’s gas?”
“Hollie, if you’re going to ask questions, please listen to the answers.”
She sings along with Kelly Clarkson and Colbie Callait. She sits still for a pedicure but won’t lay still for a nap at school. She can read all of her colors and numbers and knows her address, her family tree, and three-digit addition.
She has a little crush on Jack Frost (as do I) and thinks Moves Like Jagger is the greatest song in the universe (of course it is). Hollie uses smiles for everything and believes her stuffed elephant Guh-Gus, who is prone to unprovoked attacks, is the funniest friend she has.
She is a joyful kid and though like all kids she asks for things she can’t have (how about cupcakes?) and pouts when she doesn’t get them, she uses smiles to recover. She’ll say, “Mom, I changed my attitude,” to let me know she’s gotten over it.
She is a smart kid and we play a funny game where she holds up an object and I wrongly identify it and she says, “How’d you know?” as if I’d gotten it right.
|At the State Fair 2012 -- photo by KDW|
HB (holding a pair of bangle bracelets in a figure 8): Mom, what’s this?
Me: A hippopotamus.
HB: How’d you know?
Me: Because I’m wicked smaht.
She’s been telling her teacher she’s wicked smaht for weeks and complained yesterday that her teacher and classmates keep saying, “Smart,” not “Smaht,” and that’s not how the phrase goes.
Hollie is a performer and her aunt Kristen and I recently made a big deal out of teaching her to “Ta-Dahhh!” like an Olympic gymnast (if said gymnast was drunk).
She immediately set about teaching Guh-Gus. That crazy elephant just can’t catch on and every time he does it wrong, Hollie howls with laughter.
Hollie doesn’t want to turn five. She has been promising us she’ll try food we introduce – vegetables, dinner rolls, grilled chicken, salmon – “when I’m five.” And with the big day looming she’s worried she’ll have to say goodbye to peanut butter and honey sandwiches.
She’s been told she’ll be going to big school and that her best friend Hailey won’t be going with her. So she’s dreading turning five and having to say goodbye to Hailey and preschool.
Saying goodbye is something we're both learning to do.
She is apparently sufficiently worried about turning five that my in-laws believe Charlie and I must have tortured her. They think we've made her scared of it, a la the boogeyman. But we haven’t. She’s come up with the “when I’m five” thing all on her own.
It reminds me of my sister promising me packs of gum if I would do things for her never thinking she’d have to actually pay that debt.
So this morning I’ll wake her and tell her happy birthday, congratulate her on being five, assure her she doesn’t have to eat salmon. Then I'll explain that we cannot change time but that we can count on the fact that time will change us.
What milestones have you experienced recently?