She was a little forlorn when I picked her up at the JCC. The counselor said she’d been “not herself.” A note in her backpack said she’d had a little accident at kindergarten. She hasn’t had one of those in well over a year.
“I’m so embarrassed,” she said, folding into my arm when I got to her. We sat down, right there, in the small hallway in front of the Zumba class, and she cried and told me that she and Hannah were telling knock knock jokes during free choice, and she laughed so hard….
“It happens,” I said, “not to worry.”
My words didn’t convince her, but my arms did. We snuggled while the sweaty women inside moved to the beat. I could feel it underneath us, while we sat there.
“Mommy, I think we should go now. I’m hungry.”
We went to the diner, one of her third places, for silver dollar pancakes, her favorite. She needed a treat and we have no food left in the house.
We came home from dinner, got her in and out of the bathtub and turned on the tree lights. I’d set aside gifts that had come by mail, placing them under the tree. Over the week, she’d grabbed them and hid them beneath the tree skirt.
“It’s easier to wait if you can’t see them.”
I’d promised we could open them tonight. She ran to the tree, her damp curls bouncing and glowing in the tree’s white lights.
She handed me gifts. It was my job to open the first part–the taped parts, and she would finish the job, regardless of who the gift was for. I used to think she might be greedy about gifts. She isn’t. She just really likes to be the one to open everything. We opened a gift from my boss, one from Will and his mama, one each from Tiffany, and a box of several from Alex and family. They were all really delightful and fun gifts!
Then she grabbed her backpack, the one with the note and baggie from her teacher, and found a red tissue paper wrapped gift at the bottom. She handed it to me.
“Open it. It’s a surprise. It’s a frame.”
I started to open it, and then she grabbed it and finished the job.
“We’re like a team.”
When she unveiled the frame, she walked away with it for a second.
“It’s so shiny.”
She handed it to me.
“We can put it on the tree every Christmas.”
“Do you like it?”
“I love it. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”
She crawls back on my lap, the second time tonight.
We make some phone calls and read a little bit, and then I put her in bed.
“What was the best part of the day?” I asked.
“Laughing with Hannah, and opening presents….”
“but not peeing my pants.”
“But the jokes were really funny.”
“It happens, Selam, it’s okay.”
“Mommy, I know your favorite part.”
“you do. what was it?”
“Seeing the beautiful frame.”
“It was! How do you know?”
“Cause you were waiting a long time for that….”
She falls asleep.
She was right. I’ve waited pretty near my whole life for a macaroni picture frame.
I waited and waited.