Ava was just telling me how a particular hair piece looks like a crab. “Like their hands…I mean claws…” I’m following my daughter around her new favorite store – Claire’s boutique. Over her left shoulder she’s slung a pink knit purse, stuffed full of all the things she finds important enough to take to the mall: her jewelry box (also stuffed with treasures), some lipstick, stickers and, of course, money. Her hair is shiny and pulled back into a neat and entirely too grown up pony tail. Thanks mom. And there’s me, following my aging baby from one display rack, where she twirls around a pink boa, musing about having one at home, to another, where her lips curl in, curiously entertained as she realizes some of the hair pieces come with their own “hair.”
It reminds me of four years ago when she ambled through the art galleries of Charleston, South Carolina looking like a one year old fashionista in her yellow crocs, denim jacket, head band and pink puppy purse slung over her shoulder. And of course it reminds me of four years from now, when Bird will be in third grade and have more clothes, more interests, more friends and more opinions. She’s a sweet girl now, I think. Every reason to think she’ll be a sweet girl forever. Hope, hope…
Later Bird happily assumes her role as big sister and offers to give Lily a quarter from her purse so she can get a big gum ball out of the machine too. “Lil, you can’t swallow it though, ok? You’re not supposed to swallow gum.” Lily nods to her sister, wide-eyed, then reaches her hand below the delivery shoot to catch her treat. Seconds later she struggles to bite into the white, petrified, golf ball sized gum ball that barely fits into her mouth. I’m having so much fun watching them tonight but it’s time to intervene. “Here Lil,” I say to her. “Spit it into my hand.” I put my hand under her mouth, fully prepared to take her gum, put it in my mouth and give it a few start up chews like a good mama bird should. But her jaws finally wear it down and soon Lily’s cheeks are bulging…just like her big sister’s. The three of us sit on a bench in the middle of the Lima Mall, chewing gum and looking at each other, happy.
“Dad,” Lily says. “Remember this song…” She proceeds to sing the first verse of “Home” by Chris Daughtry. I play it for her on my guitar sometimes and tell her it’s a song I sing when I’m traveling and want to get back to her and Ava. She always bursts into tears after the first chorus and says she misses me and mommy. Then I pick her up and rock her tears away. I guess it’s mean to sing it to her over and over…she always cries. And I can’t deny it…seeing her missing me, my wife…it feels good. “It doesn’t make me sad anymore Dada.” I note that she’s using her baby voice, then smile and rub her head. My little Bean. She’s a sweet girl too, I think. Who would have guessed?
A rare moment comes as I lean back and wait for Rhonda to come out of the Children’s Place.