Friday, November 5, 2010

For Rebecca: Now That She is Six

Is she too much?

Or too loud? Or difficult?

Not at all, she’s not.

She’s joy walking

it is said

of the pony-tailed kind.

Vanessa Siejo

Rebecca is a joyful and fearless tree climber. She reaches for the sky; I lift up my arms to tether her back to earth. Not because I want to because I would love to see her climb as high as she craves, but I just understand how vulnerable her little body is to a fall. Sometimes I think, “Maybe if she wore her pink bicycle helmet and scooter pads on her elbows?” Then I realize, “nah.” Still too dangerous. What she needs is a big big net…
She’s a hula hooper, an apple cruncher and bubble gum lover. She has her own little stash of it in the rear of my Nissan, near her booster seat. My sister was horrified. I said, “For God’s sake. It’s not heroin. It’s Bubble Yum.” I know I am a bit indulgent.

Rebecca, the new 6 year old, has been annoyed me with lately. Her 8 month old baby sister, Ava, has begun to crawl, then stand against anything that will hold her. When I watch them in the afternoons after Rebecca comes home from kindergarten, I have to focus on the baby because everything in the house is a hazard to her. Ava puts every little fuzzy or piece of plastic thing into her mouth.

Rebecca is cranky and kind of snarky with me because of the diverted attention. I ask her to help pick up a dropped sippy cup, run get a diaper, a paper towel. Well, she’s naturally upset because she was the only star in my universe. She shouts, “no” at me, defiant and hurt. “I’m tired. Don’t ask me anymore.” I promise her 100 million dollars, a pony, and a big surprise for her help. She laughs and still says no. Then she sighs, big and dramatic, with arms flapping, but she relents.

This girl is at once heartbreakingly compliant and occasionally kind of naughty. An avid soccer player, a delicate ballet dancer, a singer of musicals, a lover of all things physical. Now that she is a beginning reader, adults cannot spell secrets around her any longer. Her hands are torn and calloused from learning how to swing on the rings at school. Just last week, she hurt her stomach muscles practicing the hula hoop for hours on end to master the skill.

Already, she’s lost her two top and bottom teeth. Luckily, her two top teeth have come in big, straight, and white. When I look at her, I see my oldest sister, Sandy’s school picture, from 4th grade. Her looks and smile have changed so that I can begin to see the young woman she will become.

There is a big girl tenderness in her smile that is new. Compassion for homeless people led her to ask to run a lemonade stand to raise money and wants to know the details in everything.

Because we both love music, I told her an old musical is being revived in San Francisco called West Side Story. She asks about the music. I said, “”Have you heard “I Feel Pretty?” Her face brightens, “Yes.” She has and asks about the other songs and wants to know the story. I tell her it’s kind of too old for her, but it’s about two people who love each other. but other people want to stop it. She wants to know what happens and I deliberately get vague.

Rebecca is the daughter of my daughter. I was in the delivery room when she was born six years ago this week. I was so happy that my daughter now had her own girl. The green clothed nurse, put her on Beth’s belly for a couple of minutes, then put her in a warming tray to clean her up. The baby began screaming hard.After washing out Rebecca’s eyes and scrubbing the blood off of her face and torso, the nurse wrapped her in a white with pink and blue striped receiving blanket. All the suction had formed the baby’s tiny head into a cone head so the nurse wrapped her head like a little Muslim girl to cover it. Rebecca had stopped crying and the nurse posed her upright for photos.

I took in her small presence, but I feel immediately that she has been around the wheel more than a few times. Her deep, dark blue eyes tell me so. I love her thousands of times more than that day, but still, I loved her then. Since she began to talk, she has called me “Bama” and “Dama” and now finally, “Grandma.”

I now know in my mind and heart, something I didn’t know when I was so young having my own children; children are who they are. We can try to steer them certain ways attempting to keep them safe from everything bad, but children have their own inborn temperaments and gifts, and more precisely, their own journeys to make. We just get to be their companions riding in the sidecar while they steer the motorcycle. Grandparents are powerless and we know it. I just want to stay close enough to breathe in her joie de vivre and to whisper in her ear, " I love you more than the stars in the sky."

When I was five,

I was just alive.

But now I am six,

I'm as clever as clever.

So I think I'll be six

now and forever.

A.A. Milne

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