If you’ve been around here, my staked-out section of cyber-space, for a while, you might remember Maya. If you haven’t, or if you don’t, let me just say we go way back. I’ve known her now for two of her four full summers (she’s freshly five). Our interactions were seasonal until recently, because one can only teach swimming lessons outdoors when it’s warm–nannying, however, knows no such limits. So now, instead of wading in three feet of water for her to jump to me and holding her afloat while she lays on her back, I’m waiting at 4PM for her bus to arrive and holding her hand as we cross the street. She talks so quickly that she can synopsize a full day of kindergarten during a short walk from bus-stop, home.
Our first summer was just Maya and me; but now we are three–[Enter the ne’er napping nymph named Emily (who is, coincidentally, three)]. So while Maya is off at school, learning about monarch butterflies, hibernation, and how to use a reference (kids these days!), Emily and I play. At first glance Emily seems to be a carbon copy of her sister, but the more time I spend with each of them I realize how truly individual they are–except for the squeals, they most definitely have the same giggly squeal.
Playdate #1 involved a dollhouse. Emily relinquished control of only the plastic family’s dog, whom I was to render with woofs and barks as instructed. To be honest, I was relieved. Somewhere, I’d misplaced my ability play; or lost the key that unlocks that part of the brain and lets sparkly little girl imagination dance behind the eyes, fill the ears, spill out of the mouth, and electrify every nerve. On Playdate #1 I realized I needed to reteach myself.
Yesterday, Emily asked for my assistance spreading a plush, pink blanket out on the floor. In case I want to lay down, she said, acknowledging the nap she had conned her way out of just as her mother was leaving for work. The blanket could have easily transformed into Emily’s pink bed if you squinted your eyes a little. But a bed is the furthest thing from what that blanket became. You see, the pink turned blue (or aquamarine as Maya would have said, had she been there), and we had a pool and in it we swam.
We jumped off the ottoman and heard the splashing, blew bubbles on the surface and felt them popping on our cheeks, took the biggest breaths our lungs could bear and submerged ourselves all the way down to the bottom–gasping when we came back up. Emily wore her favorite fruit bathing suit and I wore a floral one. I wiped my hand across to forehead to draw a thick curtain of wet bangs from over my eyes to the side. I saw that Emily’s little ringlets stayed perfect when wet, and somehow with her tiny little girl hands, she unlocked my little girl imagination.