After bedtime stories and prayers, I will lie down with my 4-yr-old daughter if she is having trouble falling asleep. Sometimes this turns into giggly girl time, sometimes I spend a lot of time admonishing her to “go to sleep”, and sometimes, like tonight, we have serious mother-daughter talks.
“Mama, Sam’s puppy died.”
“I imagine Sam was very sad about that.”
“Did you give him a hug to try to make him feel better?”
There was a long pause, and then she turned toward me again.
“Mama, your mama died.”
“Kind of like Sam’s puppy.”
“Yes, kind of like Sam’s puppy.”
She pulled her Cat-In-The-Hat quilt over her head and started talking in a very quiet whisper to Floppy Dog, her best buddy—a stuffed dog given to her by my mom when she was one month old, about one month before my mom died. Floppy Dog is the best of confidants, what you tell Floppy Dog stays with Floppy Dog.
It’s been a rough couple of months for us, and though we have tried to shelter Elena as much as possible from the upheaval, she notices. Her Papa went to the hospital so that the doctors could fix his heart, and he still isn’t out yet. She knows we are worried. On every trip to the hospital that she makes, she tosses a few coins in the water fountain and makes a wish for Papa to get better.
Her daddy has been away on a week-long business trip to Columbia, and the change in routine has presented its challenges. Every morning when I wake her from her groggy somnolence, she asks “Daddy?” wondering briefly why it is Mom who is waking her instead of Daddy until I remind her that Daddy is on a trip and will be back in so many days. She has even asked, “Will Daddy come back?” She has a lot on her mind.
So, as we lay on her bed, I wasn’t sure what thoughts were going through her head as she thought about a friend’s puppy dying and her mama’s mama dying.
Even though I thought it really was time for her to fall asleep, I did not want to cut short the conversation if she needed to talk some more. “What are you saying to Floppy Dog?” I asked.
She pulled the quilt down and looked at me, holding out her arms, her chocolate brown eyes open wide and sparkling in the dimness of the nightlight. “Hug?”
“Yes, I would like that very much.”
As we embraced, I wasn’t sure who was comforting whom.
©2011 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.