The signs had been there. I crawled in her bed for nighttime snuggles and asked about the shirts. I have something important to tell you, Mama. I don't want to be a firefighter anymore.
She's just lost interest. I asked her if there's something new she wants to be or if she's going to take some time to think about it. You say I ask good questions and would be a good scientist and my teacher always says she should let me be the teacher.
"You can do either of those things, love. Or you can do something completely different. You don't need to know right now."
I don't, Mama. I don't know. She moaned her words. This identity she's shedding, she's having trouble recognizing herself without it.
"You don't have to figure it out right away. Some people don't figure out what they want to be until college or later. You have lots of time." She relaxed a bit into my arms.
I'm going to give the rest of my firefighter things to my brother: my shirts and my books and my toys. I'm done with them.
"Okay, sweet girl. If that's what you want to do, I'm sure you will make your brother very happy."
She relaxed further. Her breathing slowed. I held her in the dark until I thought she was asleep.
I slipped out from under her covers and almost reached the door.
Maybe not ALL my firefighter things. Okay? I might need to keep just a little bit.
Hold on to your dreams, sweet girl, even as they fade, even as they shrink against your stretching horizons. Keep them in your heart, keep them in your pocket, worn smooth like pebbles under your fingertips. Go on with your growing up. It is okay indeed.