The first girl is a mirror of my own heart and so I understand her feelings by the slightest shift of her expression. The second girl, though, is like a foreign language. I don't always understand what I'm reading, no matter how hard I study.
She is more self-sufficient emotionally (like her father), but also more easily wounded. When she is upset she has to let it out by noise, lowing, keening, it looks like drama but it's release, pain eased by decibel, hard on her mama's nerves but effective because when it's gone, it's really gone. She's more comedic, not at all shy, fierce, defiant, determined, uncautious, impetuous. She is so smart, stunningly beautiful, and sometimes utterly incomprehensible to me in her reactions to everyday events.
The uncautious and the loud and the impetuous: those are the reasons, I can pinpoint them exactly, why for a long time I preferred not to be in charge of her in public. I like her, you know? And it did my heart no good the way she'd manage always to bolt into a street or climb something impossibly unsturdy or find a discarded condom to play with (but it's MY balloon! I found it!) and I'd have to unilaterally insist that she couldn't keep her balloon or play in the sparkly broken glass or leap off a newspaper dispenser and yes, she did have to hold my hand the whole time and her disappointment and frustration would climax in the noise. And to be candid, I'm accustomed to becoming public spectacle at the antics of my three but there is nothing in the world like the worldless moaning at sonic-boom-volume that comes out of L's throat when she's unhappy. You can hear it right over all the outdoor noises of downtown bustle. And so she and I have a long history of house-bound activities.
But she asked, and so I said, "let's go," and I left work early and snuck past her brother's classroom to pick her up alone and we had a little adventure. We drove downtown, which was not DC-downtown but Silver-Spring-downtown, but was exciting enough. We parked in a public garage and walked the wibble-wobble blocks and she was all I had to watch, and so I could let her be a little free.
She touched the edge of every cafe table we passed. Ethiopian, Indian, Greek, Chinese, another Ethiopian. Populated or empty. Ding! she chimed at each one. She made old men laugh. She swooned with praise over the pink and purple wigs in the window of the wig shop. She hugged the shiny statue of Buddha in the doorway of a nail salon, proclaiming him the prettiest golden teddy bear in the whole wide world.
And when we arrived at our destination, her whole body exploded in happiness, fracturing bystanders with the vehemence of her joy. The restaurant is a converted fire station, decorated with everything a little firefighter loves and with a real fire truck outside. Thank you for bringing me here! she shouted about a hundred times at inappropriate volumes but with unabashed sincerity. The food was nothing special but without exaggeration, I don't know the last time I saw her so unwaveringly happy.
After dinner, we played in the splash fountain. He siblings both approach the fountain hesitantly and in their company, she always has, too. Tonight she ran right to the biggest stream and took a geyser up her nose and sat down laughing. We had got a cup of ice cream and I'd spoon her bites between water runs and she played until her lips were as blue from cold as her tongue was from the dessert. She was drenched and shivering and couldn't stop giggling and I stripped her right there down to her also-soaked rainbow unders. I took off my cardigan and wrapped it around her and she composed a flappy penguin dance right there on the plaza, too-long sleeves flying and her feet wibble-wobbling. And I carried her wet and dripping to the car like she wasn't my four-and-almost-a-half-year old but my baby, which she will always be even if we never learn to speak the same language, and I brought her home.
I owe you memes. I said I'd write you memes and they're in draft and I don't know why they're so hard for me to publish but they just make me feel shy. They're coming, really (I think).