Monday, January 17, 2011


There was a lot of activity at my daughter's house this past weekend. Jenn's friends drove in from Syracuse to build a surprise loft bed for Sophie. The husband, Zeke, is a master craftsman, teaches woodworking to college students. In a two-day period, he managed to create the most amazing bed and free up much needed space beneath for shelves, hooks, a dollhouse and reading nook. Sophie's very cramped room had an extreme makeover!

Little sis, Hannah, was in on the surprise and helped to take care of the couple's toddler while the house was turned a bit upside down. She was bursting at the seams with the secret she was keeping, knowing that she wanted to orchestrate how the surprise would play out when her sister returned home on Sunday. Most of Saturday and Sunday's focus was on Sophie's project, with a fair amount of attention on baby Thomas too.

I came over on Saturday and cooked a roast to add to the festivities. Jenn had taken down the Christmas tree and cleared out Sophie's room for the renovation. Hannah wandered about, carrying Moe the kitten when she didn't have baby T in her arms. She wanted to feel useful. Part of the plan was for her to sleep over at my house on Saturday night because Jenn needed to sleep in her bed in order to host Zeke, wife Karen, and Tommy in the main bedroom. Trying to squeeze into a twin bed with Hannah didn't seem like such a good idea so Jenn told her that she was coming with me for the night. Looked good in theory.

Normally, having Hannah for a sleepover is a lot of fun. As we drove down the hill to my place though, Hannah's demeanor changed. By the time I pulled into my parking space, she was in tears. Inconsolable. "I want my mommy." She stubbornly refused to get out of the car. "Take me back to mommy's." I tried to reason with her and be firm. She would have none of it. It was late; she and I were both tired. Frustrated, I closed the back door, immediately plunging the car interior into darkness as she screamed more loudly. I quickly re-opened the door and sat inside. "Hannah, come on. It's cold out here. You can't sleep in the car and you can't go back to mommy's tonight." The crying ratcheted up another notch.

Hannah, the second born, was having a meltdown in the back seat of my car. An entire day of being the good girl, mommy's helper, preparing the way for her sister's special surprise moment had finally taken its toll. She did all that was asked of her and then was 'banished' from her own house to sleep at her grandmom's. Any other time this would be a reward; tonight it seemed like a punishment.

I knew that Hannah would have to come to her own moment of truth. So I sat while she protested through her tears. I reminded her of next morning's breakfast (waffles, one of her favorites) and a video of her choice that we would watch together. Finally, she unbuckled her seat belt and wiggled her way out my side of the car.

As she trudged up the snowy path in front of me, I wanted to take her in my arms and whisper "It's all right, Hannah, I understand." I was torn between being firm and being compassionate. I also sensed that wrapping my arms around her would not be very welcomed at the moment. Hannah was hurting and needed to work through this with some of her dignity left intact.

We climbed up my stairs and she walked across the living room, in coat and boots, plopping down on the love seat while still proclaiming, "I miss my mommy." She seemed so lost and my heart melted.

"I miss my mommy too."

She looked at me as the tears started to run down my face. Cautiously, I sat next to her, close enough to let our bodies touch. She leaned into me, still whimpering but more receptive. My tears fell onto my sleeve and her hair.

"It must be very hard sometimes. One week at daddy's and then the next week at mommy's. Divorce is hard. It makes me sad too. I know you want mommy tonight but she really thought you would sleep better at my house in the bigger bed and she had to use your bed because of the company."

I couldn't give her anything else. Just my tears and my thoughts that sometimes we can't always get what we want.

The storm passed. She took her coat and boots off, even putting them in their proper place at the top of my stairs. One brief moment of panic, "I don't have baby blanket!" Ouch. We were still in a lifeboat and the water was choppy.

"No, but Jelly Bean and Fudge are waiting for you on my bed. I bet you can rub their tummies while I rub your back." She weighed the offer as her tears dried and then went back to the bedroom, climbing atop my bed to hug the two stuffed animals. She let me help her change into pajamas, we both went to the bathroom, and then I did what I was wanting to do all night. I rubbed lazy circles on her back as she held on to her little pets.

No mommy, no baby blanket, no real kitten. Just two weary souls who snuggled together wishing that life could be more fair.

"Leave the light on, Babci."

She had a restless night but woke up with plans on how she would lead the surprise for her sister. We did not talk of the previous night's tears. Instead, she asked for her favorite waffles and chose "Anastasia" for our video treat.

"Anastasia", the story of a lost Russian princess who was separated from her loving grandmother but, in the end, they both found each other again.


nono said...

I wish my mom lived closer so that my kids could share in her love and wisdom. Hannah and Sophie are lucky to have you so close Elaine. So very lucky.

Chris (Mombie) said...

Oh, Mater, this made me cry. What a lovely job you did in a difficult moment.

Jenn clearly learned a lot from you.

Dona McAdam said...

What a sweet story. You are so understanding and filled with love, how can any child resist your persuasion. And Sophie's recital was so touching. She certainly has some talent and such a brave thing to do. When I was 8 I was invited to sing on a kid's radio show but I lost my nerve and regretted it immediately with storms of tears later at home. She was very brave--I'd love to give her a big hug. I have tears in my eyes as I write this.

geogirl said...

Wow. I miss my mommy now too.

Off to make a phone call...

Karen said...

Two ladies with so much (real) grace.