She put on a dance costume—the now ragged blue one from camp—over her Sunday School tights. She changed her jewelry, too. Blue dangly earrings, so appropriate for Sunday School, were put to rest; green dangly earrings are much more appropriate for afternoon jaunts to the Laundromat. New necklaces and a collection of pony-tail holders doubling as bangles made the look. No, wait, not quite: pink Hello Kitty rainboots made the look.
It was raining. It was a proverbial cats and dogs and buckets rain. The bags of dirty clothes became bags of dirty wet clothes. I shoved soggy laundry into the trunk. She stood on the sidewalk twirling her umbrella. I hurried her into the car, strapped her in and took off.
The Laundromat was the Laundromat. The rain battered the pane glass. Ten year olds roamed in packs, fueled by soda and Doritos; their weary-eyed mothers checked pockets for inkpens and money. The attendant dished out bathroom keys and advice. Socks were mated as couples snapped at each other. Four televisions blared. Under it all, the swish-swish-swish-swish metronome of washers kept time.
Selam huddled close, pretending to play with the video games, practicing her pirouettes, watching a DVD with earphones, singing along with the alphabet songs. I never had to tell her to stay near, she just did. She just does.
When I was about midway through the folding, another little girl wandered into our area. Selam stared at her for awhile, then made her approach. I watched the two of them do the little girl friendship dance from the other end of the room. The new girl showed Selam her doll. Selam told new girl about her doll back at home. Selam showed new girl her arabesque, and the new girl showed her almost-but-not-quite splits. Then they danced together and fell down repeatedly. Because falling down is hilarious.
“Mommy,” Selam called out, laughing, “Look at me. Look at us.”
“That’s not your mommy.”
“That’s my mommy.”
“She doesn’t look like you.” Hands are on five year old hips now.
“But she loves me. I love Mommy. Match. Match.”
New girl looks at Selam, looks at me, looks at Selam and shrugs.