I've stopped combing my six year old's hair. She cries and complains when I try to pull the brush through her thick and wavy strands, so I've started pulling it up in an elastic ponytail and leaving it at that. The sun has turned her hair a shiny dark gold and it hangs around her face like that of a pre-Raphaelite maiden.
My four year old went to a birthday party last Sunday wearing a dress and no underpants. When Mia whispered the news in my ear while Nora bounced around in the inflatable castle, I fretted for a fraction of second then just laughed. Aw, what can you do? I wasn't going to pull her out of out the bouncy house. Her dress was long enough for a Mormon. The girls had a great time.
The garbage man and I shared a little sexy wiggle to "PYT" grooving at full volume out of his truck radio the morning after Michael died.
I don't really mind that we were roused out of sleep last night by the girl screaming in the street. I guess we're not the only imperfect family on this street. I thought she was out partying with her friends and briefly thought of calling the cops to ask them to drive by and scare her off, but by the time I finished that thought, I was asleep again. In the morning Randy, who got a more clear earful, said she had actually been fighting with her mom, who tried to hush her and get her inside the house. "A taste of things to come," he said, as Nora lay with her head on my belly and Mia flipped through a book on our bed.
For dinner one night last week I made myself a dip with canella beans, rosemary from a pot on our deck, smoked paprika, olive oil and sautéed garlic. I whipped it in the tiny food processor and spread it on tomatoes. Four year old Nora got store-bought baba ganoush out of the plastic container with pita triangles and carrot sticks. We put our feet on each other's chairs and ate off each other's plates. We may not even have bothered with plates, come to think of it. I just dipped my carrot sticks in the food processor.
Barely qualifies as "dinner" but Mia was off on an extended playdate, Randy was working as always and this was a positive feast compared to the corn dinner we had a couple of weeks ago. That night I had pulled a bunch of jars and bags off the shelves with lots of good intentions, but the only food that Randy and the girls ended up eating was boiled corn on the cob with butter and salt. And they weren't very happy about it.
Over our baba ganoush dinner, I watched Nora cram another piece of pita into her mouth and I thought, "Nancy."
It would impossible for me not to compare my daughters to my sister and me. Nancy and I were similarly close in age. Only a year and nine months separated us, while Mia was two years and four months old when her little sister was born. When I hear them play their elaborate imaginary games from another room, when they fight viciously, I remember my sister, my nearly constant companion for nine years of my life. I've carried her loss for so long and the girls are so fresh and immediate and funny right here in our house that the frequent memory of my dark-haired sister that is stirred up by the antics of my children most often makes me nostalgic but not terribly sad.
Tonight, however, I was not thinking of Nancy because my daughter reminded me of her; I thought of my sister because Nora felt like her. Here was a moment of companionship, out of the hundreds we share every day, that pushed me farther back to the wordless pleasure and complete comfort of a childhood sister.
My conscience flashed a yellow signal I willfully ignored. At that moment, I did not care if placing my tiny child into a hole in my heart is not fair to her. Perhap Nora was my little mnemonic device, but she is most fully my daughter and her own person. If I feel closer to her because she reminds me of someone I loved dearly long ago, it is only one small part of what makes her adorable.