Last night I fell asleep with Echo at 930. Then I reared up at 1030, thinking I was rallying for a movie and hang-out time with Nathan. But then I crumpled on the couch and passed out once more. Which means that by the time 830 rolled around this morning I had been asleep for eleven hours and was ready to be awake. But Echo, nestled between Nathan and I, was slumbering peacefully. I am well-trained to keep my body as still as a corpse if it means my girl will keep sleeping, so I froze and watched her.
Echo, if she has a good dream going, will sleep far longer than usual. Like a book you can't put down she follows that dream as far as she can. Without the storyline? Those eyes pop open at the slightest stir. She must have been deep in a rich tale because although she wiggled and re-settled, those eyes stayed closed. Eventually, as I gazed upon them, those round blue eyes fluttered open. She said: It BLENDS. Night blends into day. It combines through magic. I know this because I saw it.
She's five. And perfect.
I stayed quiet, letting her thoughts tumble out and over us. Next she said: Oh RIVER DAYS. That day that I swam to you for the first time? I remember it perfectly. I tip-toed out toward you and then you said Swim to me! And I launched off my toes and swam. That was the best day of my life.
Then, as though reading the title of a book she rang out: THE THINGS THAT TOUCH MY BUTT! Because, you know mom, the covers are touching my butt? Mom? When you play Twenty Questions and you pick a big horse, and then someone guesses horse, you should answer yes to that question. Basically Bella didn't play Twenty Questions properly.
She has a lisp too. Did I mention that?
Later she said: You know it's impolite for those people to say that we shouldn't be sad if people die, even if they are still around us in spirit. It's impolite because we can feel whatever we want to feel. Whatever feels right for us to feel.
Later she said: I'm going to cut through that shortcut like Henry does when I'm a dog. Well if I come back like a dog. If I come back like any kind of trained animal I sure know that I want you for my owner. What? I LOVE you.
This is what it's like to be companions with this little girl. She's this marvelous mix of observations, mysticism, and practicality. Her brain is fascinating to me. Reincarnation and love of dogs and love for me all in one fell swoop? Swoon.
A couple days ago she said: Mom? Bella used to say LATERS! when she was leaving the bathroom after brushing her teeth. Now I noticed that she says LATER! Why do you think she changed it? I think she thinks the boys she's trying to attract will like it if she says that. That's probably why.
I swear to you she said "the boys she's trying to attract". That's just how she is. Barely five years old but not missing a thing. She's absolutely aware of Bella's changing body and changing interests. She's like the translator, soaking in her sister's hormonally shifting tides and calling it like it is. While Nathan and I remember and then forget what it's like to be a pre-teen. While we scratch our heads over the new changes in our home Echo flatly describes it all like a seasoned Bingo caller.
And all of this combines for me - summer days, budding pre-teen, round-eyed five year old - into a mild stomach turning panic. I watch one kid, basically leaping out of childhood, and can't help but count the remaining years we have left of these wide-eyed observations from the little one. Then the big kid boomerangs back into childhood and builds a fairy boat and I breathe a sigh of relief, aware once again that there is no absolute crossing over. It's not the end of anything, just a shift in the tides. And we always like them best at the age they currently are anyway. There's nothing to be afraid of.
But tell that to my heart!
So I do tell that to my heart. I remind myself that you can't keep anything in place, you can't freeze time, but you can enjoy it. Fight the fear of summer turning to fall, not by imagining fall and panicking, but by bringing every possible meal to the back porch. By staring at the sunflowers. By getting my bare feet into the dry summer grass. And I can enjoy the summer of this child's youth as well. I can listen to her as she tells me about her collection of lilac seeds. I can listen as she recounts how she stacked some rocks in a very particular way.
I can enjoy this perfect little companion.