I see my daughter's blonde pigtails and falling-out-of-the-barrettes hair being blown around by the wind from her rolled-down backseat window. She has stretched her right leg as far as the confines of the carseat will allow, and is hanging about an inch-and-a-half of her foot out in the breeze.Her head is tipped back, eyes closed, and a big grin is on her face as she sings "Willaby, wallaby, wee, an elephant sat on MEEEEE, willaby, wallaby, woo, an elephant sat on YOOOOU!" She giggles and bounces in her seat, and then changes gears and says, "Mommy Becca, tell me a story." This is a phrase I simultaneously love and dread hearing; I dread it because I'm horrible at compulsory, unrehearsed storytelling, and I love it because this is our routine, and it's comforting. I say, "Okay, who's in it? Oh, a Barbie? Well, is she a princess or a witch?" And on we go, until I need a swig of my Pepsi, which is warm by now.
Raffi plays in the background, singing about apples and bananas, and the kid is explaining one of her "Mommy, I have a great idea"s to me. I listen and ask questions, because I know these things that seem small to me are big to her, that it's all big to her. I know, or at least I hope I know, that listening to her great ideas now will mean getting to listen to her "great" ideas when she's twelve and fifteen and twenty-six.
The sun is getting lower in the sky, and I'm at the place in our conversation where I have to make that turn to the South. In my mind, I stop the car at the corner, pull my heart out of my chest, and gently place it near some landmark on the side of the road. I'll need to find it later, but the task at hand requires a steely resolve and emotional fortitude that squeeze out any space a heart might take up. The road turns to gravel, and over the music I hear "Mommy, I want to drive!" I unbuckle her, and she and the entourage of Barbies climb to the driver's seat. She works the steering wheel and I run the pedals, and together we navigate those last few yards. When the car stops, she jumps out and asks if both mommies can push her on the tire swing. We race to the tree, and only stop once to pick flowers in the yard.
It's time for one more hug and kiss, the kind you can keep forever. Then it's "I'll call you tomorrow night, Punkin", and the car drives itself out of the yard. I watch in the rearview as she climbs the stairs and is ushered into a house that's not mine. The world behind me is getting blurry. I adjust the mirror so I can see out the back window again, and I go look for my heart where I left it. Raffi is singing again, and my tears start to flow. I can hear my daughter singing in the back seat and see her blonde hair blowing in the breeze. This music will hold me until I can hold her.
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