Red leaves tip the branches of the neighbor’s sugar maples.
Nora closes her eyes while flying back and forth on the swings. She launches into a song, “Oh no, you can’t believe it! Oh no, you can’t believe it!” Crowing at the top of her helium-high little voice, it sounds more like, “OH NOOOO, YOU CANT BEE YEEVE IT!” Mia and I join in and we chant the song for five minutes. The dusty smell of pot smoke drifts down from somewhere, probably behind that Rush beach towel hung up in the neighbor’s second floor window.
Nora’s voice is something like the buzzing of a soprano frog, something like the monotone of a tired little old lady.
In Mia’s bedtime poetry book, there’s a birthday song for a five year old. “Hey, we can sing this on your birthday coming up!” I say, then launch brightly into the poem. But when I come to the line about “Now I won’t ever be four or three or two,” my voice cracks and I have to pause. You forget sometimes, in the rush of cake planning and invitations that a tender stage is ending.
Why does their chubbiness move me so much? Eleanor has grown an inch since May. Who are those short-haired inarticulate cherubs in our Christmas video?
“Nora! What did Daddy catch in the cage?”
“Oh! A tip-moke!”
“No, a TIP-MOKE!”
“Yeah! A tip-moke!”
After a low-key summer, Mia started ice-skating, gymnastics, princess ballet and Montessori preschool all in the same week. She has taken it all in stride. What capabilities lie dormant in her, only needing the touch of the right teacher? “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear,” Grandpa reminds us.
“I don’t want to go to school!” wailed Mia in the car on the way to the first day.
“Okay,” I replied. “We can go take a look and if you don’t like it, we can go home and try another day.” This is not a false promise. I would do this. But I had that mommy-Spidey-sense that she was going to forget my promise as soon as she spied some little friends.
Sure enough, she skipped from the car to the building, took the meandering garden path instead of the sidewalk and begged for a penny to drop in the donation dragon’s mouth. When the classroom door opened to show us a real bunny residing in his cage just inside the door, there was no turning back.
“I love school!” said Mia the next day. “Am I going again today?”
“GROWUPS!” This is Eleanor’s reaction to hearing any music that doesn’t have a predictable up and down melody, steady 4/4 beat and a soprano singer with a smile in her voice.
“Grown-up music is SAD! I’m gonna be SA-AD!” (in a threatening sing-song) “I’m gonna be SA-AD!”