Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Away

I handed her an old floral canvas duffel that I used to use for sleepovers when I was in middle school. I didn't make the moment heavy for her, saying nothing about how the years of safe travel and adventure it accompanied me on would shepherd her through her nerves to the land of sweet dreams. In someone else's bedroom. E had her first sleepover on Saturday.

For a couple of years she's been inviting friends to stay at our house and steadfastly refusing to reciprocate. All sleepovers happened here or they didn't happen at all. And that was fine with me. She wasn't ready. "You'll know when you are," I'd tell her. "Until then, who cares? Just invite your friends here."

Sometimes they'd sleep in the living room. Sometimes they'd spread air mattresses across her bedroom floor. Sometimes L would crowd the big girls and sleep with them, and between you and me, I think that was the biggest impetus toward bravery: E didn't like sharing the magic of sleepover-friend time with her little sister.

So this Saturday evening we took my faded floral duffel and stuffed it with a sleeping bag, her pillow with the required purple pillow case, two stuffed animal friends, a book or two, and some toiletries and clothes. And her Rainbow Loom, of course, because have loom, will travel. She was giggly and suddenly quiet and just as suddenly giggly again. Nervous.

We drove to her friend's house and the dad, ever genial, asked me if I wanted to stay for dinner. I had planned to leave quickly but E latched on to my leg and the delayed inevitable, and suddenly I was there for dinner. Eventually I did leave, and by then E was so involved with her activity with her friend that a long goodbye was a hindrance to her fun, and anyway she knew that I had left her a goodnight note and thinking things in her Rainbow Loom box. 

She's had a lot of moments like that this year: identifying a fear as enormous, staring at it, willing herself to challenge it, and slowly, eventually, at her own pace and hurried by no outside influence, stepping over that fear like just a scuff mark on the floor. I left. She slept over. In the morning she was happy and chatty and their chocolate milk tastes different from ours. She rebuffed my pride. Because this was no big deal, right?

And of course it wasn't. And of course it also was.


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