“Just let me finish the chapter,” she mumbled, not looking up from her Puppy Place book. This is the series—alphabetical and with several books per letter—about dogs who go live with a foster family until they find their forever home. I’m going on hearsay here, never having read one myself. Lilah brought several of these books back from her visit to her grandparents. I had given grandma the heads-up that the child had read through the Cs, and grandma stocked up on this fine literature.
It had been Lilah’s first trip away from home without her parents. We try to make sure the kids get down to see their grandparents without us. It’s a different way of relating and bonding. Translation: the kids benefit from being spoiled by their grandparents now and then without us around to interfere.
Lilah and Benjamin went together. He’s gone alone before, but he’s a lot to handle by himself. He likes to talk. And play. And ask questions. And run. And climb. And talk. As it turns out, there’s nothing Lilah likes more than to talk, play, run, and climb with her brother. Alone, either one of them would drive you crazy with the constant need for input. Together, they absorb one another’s energy.
I flew them down on Friday morning and walked them to the edge of security, where my in-laws were waiting on the other side. I hugged Benjamin goodbye, then he ricocheted down the last few feet, roller bag bouncing behind him, and launched himself into their arms. Lilah stopped for a longer snuggle. A tiny pulse of hesitation flickered through her eyes, but then she turned and ran to join her brother.
I watched them walk away, then headed to the gate for my return flight home.
Three days later, they were back, spilling over with stories, zoo souvenirs, and several bags filled with aluminum foil sculptures. (“But we got through security!” Benjamin offered by way of explanation.)
Now, it was bedtime. After Lilah finished her chapter, I clicked off the lamp and climbed into bed. My big little girl still likes to lie with me every night. She settled her body in properly against mine and slid her thumb into her mouth. Cuddle Position #1.
“I missed you,” I told her.
“I missed you a little more than I missed Daddy,” she responded. At least she’s stopped saying stuff like that to his face.
We contemplated this for a moment. Then, “Honey, are you getting too old for your Winnie the Pooh pictures? Do you want us to take them down and get you something a little more grown up?”
“No,” she replied. “I like them.” My heart swelled, as the cliché goes. She was still my baby. “But, I’d like if you could take that down.”
I looked up where she was pointing. It was a framed picture that has passed down through each of my children. A photo we took years ago on an outing when we lived in London. A photo that has meant so much to me, and each of the children in turn. And here she was, telling me it was time.
Time to take down the portrait of Thomas the Tank Engine.