Our babies grow up, bit by very little bit, and often we are too busy, or too proud, or just too damn obtuse to notice.
But other times, maybe ordinary times, maybe paint-dryingly dull times, we do notice. And in noticing, those ordinary times become extraordinary.
My big girl was supposed to have a friend over tonight. Her very first friend to sleep over here. She had big plans: movies in the basement, popcorn, giggling into the night. But yesterday, for reasons that aren’t clear, her friend cancelled. Too tired, her parents said, but it didn’t ring true. Maybe she was nervous about sleeping away from home, maybe the two of them had been through some petty argument, or maybe she just really wasn’t feeling well, and wanted to be in her own bed. Whatever. My little girl’s heart was broken, and that of her mother fell into pieces along side it.
But in some miracle of nature, my big girl’s little sister stepped in to patch up the broken bits and fill in the holes. And right now the two of them are sleeping side by side on the pull-out couch in the basement, 2 floors down from me, out of hearing, out of range.
I am tempted to join them, to sleep in the downstairs guest room so that I am close by in case one of them wakes, calls out, the way I have been close by since birth.
At the same time I am tempted to sleep in my own bed, 2 flights of stairs away – 60 feet that to my heart might as well be 60 miles. I am tempted to give them this freedom, this independence. This chance to overcome a fear they once had, maybe have no longer.
It is a tiny step for them, to be willing, excited to spend the night in the cold, dark basement. It is them growing older, growing up, eventually away. Bit by tiny little bit, they are turning out of babies and into people, and to me that is kind of extraordinary.
This morning, I tiptoed down the creaky wooden stairs to find them, curled up with their blankets and babies in front of the glowing television. When they saw me, before I could ask if they had been cold or afraid or lonely, Dee turned her toothless grin my way and asked, “Can we do it again tonight?!”
A silly milestone, but a milestone nonetheless.