Monday, June 6, 2011

a surprise gift

I was packing Frances's lunch this morning, envisioning a round of pleasant errands with Gabriel after the big girl left for school and listening to Mike practicing hurdles with her one last time in the backyard before her very first Field Day commenced later that morning. The competition had been looming for her ever since a practice round of some of the events in gym class last week; from her tearful description of the impossibly high hurdles and her complete inability to clear them, Mike and I feared for her. (And truth be told, for us: the self-hating tantrum is the very worst sort to endure, as my mother will attest).  

But then something happened that slid my grocery-shopping plans right off the table: a friend called and asked if Frances might like a massive wooden roll-top desk for her room. Katie and Chester, of Taco Sunday fame, live down the street and already do so much to encourage my daughter's creative gifts. They especially like her poetry. They thought she might like a new surface on which to compose.

And so that was my day! It began with Gabriel, walking to their house to take measurements and confirm that we wanted the desk. It continued with Gabriel and Chester, going back and forth in the big old station wagon with parts of the desk, extra screws, and a stowaway spider in one of the drawers.

Then we moved shelves, swept odd playing cards and plastic beads out of the way, dusted and cleaned the desk, and re-assembled it in all its weighty adult glory right in the middle of Frances's decidedly little girl bedroom. Gabriel helped enthusiastically, gathering his toy tools just in case and dusting alongside me with great determination. He especially loved the desk before the top went back on for its resemblance to a fox's den. At least, it seemed that way to him.

There, you just missed him! He's popping his head down inside the den.
And back up again, taking a picture of me as I take one of him.
I spent nap time racing to finish an article that was due last week and racing to nestle the piles of notes and drawings, old brochures, sketches for new board games, abandoned craft projects, and stickers that had long lost their stick that spilled out of Frances's shelves and drawers in all the furniture moving deep into the bottom of the recycling bin. I tucked some of her treasures into the little wooden boxes and slid the very best of her stories and pictures into the desk drawers. Then Gabriel woke up, I emailed the article, and we went to pick Frances up at school.

She threw her pink backpack into the backseat, settled into her booster seat, and announced that she had received two third place ribbons at Field Day.

That's great! I said.

No, it isn't! It's terrible!

Oh dear. She was feeling pretty bad. She ranted a bit. I kept quiet mostly, because arguing is pointless, and plus, we'd be home soon. As we pulled into the driveway I told her to check her room for a surprise. It is not every five year old girl who would whoop with joy to see an enormous roll-top desk, up until a few days ago used by a tutor at St. John's College with a penchant for French cuisine, Leibniz, and Dostoevsky, smack in the middle of her bedroom with lots of blank sheets of paper and pencils lying on top, just waiting. But I knew Frances would. 

And she did. And then she forgot about everything else, and wrote and read at her desk until dinner.


Rachel said...

beautiful, meagan. what a gift for her that you appreciate who SHE is. these children, they are such surprises!

Amelia said...

What an outstanding gift for an amazing small person! That is wonderful.