This is the first game Miss E wants to play when I arrive two Saturdays ago. Apparently this game had been a hit the first time we played it before she and her dad began travelling. A lot of time had passed between that time and this.
This stay with my son and granddaughter was short, a trip down on Saturday morning, returning Sunday afternoon. But enough child time to play her games and follow her instructions while issuing none.
One big joy of being with Miss E, even for a short time, is a chance for me to behold my own small self with the eyes of love. Experiencing Miss E as the center of attention reminds me of a poem I wrote about my own childhood. In “Circling the Wagons,” I expressed sadness that when I looked into the mirror, I saw my mother’s face and not my own.
Parents at their best make a world in which their children feel they matter and don’t just exist at their mother or father’s convenience. When E speaks, her daddy hears her. He allows her to interpret her own experiences. And I’m in awe of how he helps her say what she needs before she cries or whines. He is giving her the tools I am still learning to give myself, that space between feeling and reacting.
Near noon, Miss E, her daddy and I joined a group of her school chums for a birthday party in a pizza parlor. Though she has her own pizza, she doesn’t eat it. Instead she picks olives and tomatoes from my salad, then eyes the foil-wrapped chocolates on the table, surreptitiously unwrapping one though Daddy said not to. As the foil peels from the second chocolate, she leans toward me and whispers, “Don’t tell Daddy.” Part of me wants to say, “You know what Daddy said,” but it feels like a gift to be an accomplice to this little person.
After the party, I run beside her in the rain, grasping her hand to cross streets to a theater where my son deposits us to see “The Lorax” with other partygoers, parents, and grandparents. This time off from daddy duties is my gift to him, an hour or so to watch basketball on a big screen and drink beer with his friends.
As the theater darkens and I notice that my granddaughter is wearing a barrette with a feather that sparkles in the dark, I get what Margaret Mead meant when she said, “Everyone needs to have access both to grandparents and grandchildren in order to be a full human being.”
During my time with Miss E, it wasn’t all games. We watched Barbie in Mermaids 2. We watched it twice. Each time we chose which mermaids we were. And while we watched it, she instructed me to put together one of her jigsaw puzzles for ages 4+, while elbows on the table next to me, she colored pictures pink and purple. These she said would be gifts for a friend whose birthday party was on Sunday. Her dad and I praised her color choices and assured her that the birthday girl would adore these pink and purple pictures.
The next day after a reprise of Mermaids 2, we have time to go into her bedroom and put all the stuffed toys on her bed. Holding the tallest doll, she is Mommy, and I with the stuffed Santa, am one of many daughters. Apparently, all the children have colds except me, so I must do as Mommy tells me: help Mommy give medicine and carry my sisters while they recover. Miss E gives orders in her high little girl voice, and I give the Santa doll a high little girl voice too, although sometimes I whine because it seems to me that the other daughters are getting more attention.
When I am with this little girl, I touch the deepest part of my being. As part of the love that surrounds her and as I play with her, I simply allow things to unfold and pretend that I am that child who is flowering.