Tonight Rhonda noticed a little art project on Ava’s school board. I guess it was kind of like an oversized popsicle stick that had one end carved into the shape of a little girl, which was painted. It was cute, though there was something rather curious about it. Instead of the usual ‘Ava N.’ written to indicate whose masterpiece it was, this one said ‘Chloe.’ Rhonda asked her about it.
“Ava why do you have Chole’s stick?”
“I don’t. We had to make one with our friend’s name on it. I put Chloe Cleave on mine.”
“That’s nice! And then she put your name on hers?”
“Um…no.” Her eyes hit the ground. “No one put my name on their stick.”
As the last few words made their way out of her mouth it became evident that this was a touchy subject. She looked at us both. We looked at her, then at each other, ready to cry ourselves and Ava bolted out of the room. And then something dawned on me. I’ve seen my baby girl cry plenty of times. I’ve seen her cry when she’s tired or angry that she can’t have something her way. But I’ve never seen her gently wilt and gush out of plain old sadness. There have been, however, two occasions when I knew she was feeling heavy and ready to tear, uncomfortable because she wasn’t sure why.
The first was the other night when we were watching The Velveteen Rabbit. At the very end the boy has to part with his rabbit who, to that point, was the most significant relationship in his life. In fact, he didn’t just have to part with it. He had to see it thrown into a fire. The girls and I watched the entire movie so we were very much ‘in the moment’ at the end, at least Ava and I were. Lily had been running in and out of the room but Bird had barely moved in the hour and a half that the movie was playing. I watched her closely at the end. Her forehead was wrinkled. Her cheeks were raised. She was clutching her elephant tighter and tighter.
“You ok Bird?”
She never so much as batted an eyelash.
I’m not going to lie – I cried. That movie is super sad! Bird noticed too, and now she was dealing with two things…a sad movie and the fact that her dad was crying. Her head started pulling back and forth.
“It’s ok Bird. It’s a sad movie. You can cry if you want. Come over here.”
At first she wouldn’t. It didn’t seem like she had any idea what to do to be honest. But I kept on her.
Finally she broke loose and sprinted over to where I was sitting on the couch and buried her head between my arm and the couch. But she never cried.
Then there was tonight. I knew she felt like crying. Ava was clearly hurt and I could see in her eyes that she wanted us to make sense out of it for her, to tell her why things happened the way they did. The problem was…we couldn’t. We didn’t know why no one wrote her name on a popsicle stick. All we could do was try and make her feel a little better.
“I’ll write your name on my popsicle stick Bird,” I said. “I want you to be my friend.”
She looked up at me.
“Me too,” Rhonda added.
And then Lily.
“Me too Bird!”
I watched as her forehead began to unfold and the frown on her face began to dissipate.
“Let’s go get some.”
“Maybe mommy can make some!”
And that’s when we decided to stay in for the night and watch a movie as a family.
It’s 10:49 and Bird is laying next to my leg, on the couch, snoring intently.