Thursday, April 21, 2011
This week, Frances flew with my mother on a big blue and red airplane to visit her Great-Poppy (who is also my Poppy, and my mother's Dad), in honor of his 89th birthday. She had been looking forward to this special trip for weeks. I took them to the airport on Tuesday morning, helped them get their bags out of the car, partook in a very big hug, and then watched them walk with springy steps towards the enormous sliding glass doors. I felt an unexpected clutching in my heart, a wave of panic. For a minute I wanted to chase them down and haul Frances back to the car, back to her home, far from enormous pieces of shiny metal that fly in the sky with hundreds of people inside them.
But I didn't. And as it turns out, life with one kid is a LOT easier than life with two. Gabriel and I had a lovely, companionable few days. In the evenings and mornings, Mike would join us in an alternate-universe family life that included quiet stretches of time in which no one spoke, lots of nonfiction kids books about things like dinosaurs and dump trucks, and hardly any conflict to speak of. But when I would walk past Frances' room at night with its door left ajar, its terrible emptiness spilling out into the hallway, I felt an awful ache.
Five and three-quarters is a fine age to spread one's wings and fly, even as far as Akron, Ohio. Exclusive time with Gramma is always a good thing, and reconnecting with her great-grandfather was truly special. And like I said, family life was pretty darn nice in her absence. But. But it was wrong. Amiss. A key person was amissing. She called us a couple of times, always asking to speak to Gabriel (who was, incidentally, delighted to talk on the phone for the very first time).
According to my mom, Frances' occasional homesickness during the trip expressed itself as Gabriel-sickness. But that didn't stop her from launching into torturing him upon her return home this afternoon. At times it seemed relentless, and I could only stand back in bewilderment. Her behavior was abysmal, and though it could be explained by the stress of travel, so much of it was familiar that I felt unable to simply attribute it to that and move on. I wanted to shake her and shout: We missed you so much! You are our darling girl! Why be mean?
We are all charged with figuring out how to live with the double-edged nature of our own shining personalities, and I realize that this is the work of a lifetime, not something to be settled by age six.
Still. Sometimes I wish she would.