“Actually, I do want to come with you,” she looked at me with hesitant eyes, hoping I wouldn’t say it was too late as I grabbed my keys and purse and started to follow Bear out the door.
I paused, took one look at those eyes and swallowed my frustration with her last minute change of mind. “Go,” I smiled, “You have three minutes to throw on clothes.”
She ran from the room, grabbed her yellow dress and flip flops tore back downstairs, hair band in hand. “Will you pull it into a high ponytail?” She turned her back to me showing her mass of tousled curls.
After a quick hairstyling, we jumped in the van and dropped Bear off at his gymnastics camp he’s attending this week. Her hand slipped easily into mine as we walked out of the gym and back to the van. “I love going shopping with you, Mommy.”
I squeezed that hand as tears squeezed from my eyes. My shopping days with my little buddy are lessening. She will start school next week, and those grocery trips will be lonely for me, very lonely.
We grabbed a cart and she held my phone ready to check off each item on the list. She is so tall now, reaching things on shelves that were too high for her just months ago. She skipped and chattered as we moved through the store, then shivered as we entered the dairy section. “Mommy, make sure you don’t forget the almond milk for our smoothies. Mommy, is that organic milk? Mommy, look! They have strawberry yogurt!” I saw her rubbing her arms and handed her my fleece which she pulled over her head and grinned, looking down at her “fleece dress” whose arms almost touched the floor.
Then she danced down the aisles with arms dangling, singing VBS songs and laughing. Every head turned as she went by and every face lit up.
She does that to people. Just makes them smile. This gift of a girl.
At the check out, she chatted with the elderly man behind us in line and told him his cat food smelled which made him laugh loudly and remark about the honesty of children.
She grabbed bags to put in the cart and sang a counting song and the cashier next to us stopped what she was doing to watch and comment on her joy.
Later that day, I heard her calling in through the bathroom door to Bear who was soaking some sore muscles from falling off the bar and doing bridges and headstands all day.
“I really wish we were still young enough to play in the bathtub together.” she called to him, “I really just want to be with you, because I missed you.” She looked over at me while I folded clothes on my bed, “Mommy, I don’t like getting older and growing up. I just want to stay small and be with you and my brudders.”
This growing up thing is hard. Some days I think I’m still growing up, too, and as beautiful as it is, it’s painful, too.
I will miss her. I will miss my boys. The ache in my chest and the lump in my throat is a constant these days when I think about the school year and the lonely days while they are at school.
But that ache in my chest and lump in my throat?
They are beautiful things. And this watching them grow and this letting them go, they are a good kind of hurt, because they are a great kind of love.
She is here with me now, next to me on the couch as I type, coloring pictures and singing, “I wanna celebrate and live my life, singing ay-oh…”
I look at her, and it takes my breath away.
This good ache.
This great love.