Left behind

Two of the selling points on our current house (can a rental place have a selling point?) were the kids who live next door. Jonah, eight-years-old, is Henry's constant companion. Jane calls Jonah's big sister, Jessica, her best friend.

Jess was eleven when we moved in. She was and is the nicest kid you could ever meet. Erin and I have watched her play with Jane many times and have smiled at her creativity, patience, and sense of play. 

But eleven becomes twelve, and twelve becomes thirteen. 

Hide-and-go-seek is a little less frequent than it was. Games of tag almost never happen anymore. Jess has friends over, and she goes to a lot of sleepovers. She and her friends occasionally invite Jane over so they can paint her nails and fawn over her golden curls. Jane relishes these moments. But they are rare.

***

New Year's Day, Jess comes home from a slumber party. She looks worn. Jane nearly jumps on her in the driveway.

Jane: Jess! Want to come over to play?

Jess: I'd love to, buddy, but I have to clean my room.

Jane does a twirl. They both love to dance.

Jane: Well, you can come over after that.

Jess hefts her bag on her shoulder. She looks around. Bits of remnant makeup from the night before circle her eyes. She looks too old and too young.

Jess: Well. I'm pretty tired. I think I'm going to take a nap.

Jane: (frowning) What about after that?

Jess: I think we're going to visit some friends after that.

Jane: OK.

Jane walks back to the house. Her head is slung low, but not in the dramatic mock pout she has recently refined. 

She growls at Alice, who runs crying to the kitchen. Tears beget tears, and suddenly Jane is crying, too. I give her a hug.

Jane: Why won't Jess play with me?

Me: She wants to, Jane. She's just...

I don't finish my sentence. "She's just growing up without you." 

We hug some more, then play a few rounds of hide-and-go-seek. She has fun, but the remnant red from crying circles her eyes. She looks too old and too young.

10 comments:

Craig Wesley said...

Life. Is. Hard.

Stop it, or you'll get *me* started...

Dave Atkinson said...

The staff at Tomato Transplants apologizes. We will return to regularly scheduled blogging on all things cute.

karn said...

oh man.

Lori said...

This entry left me with tears running down my face.
Golden haired ittle girls shouldn't have to learn that sometimes, life sucks and there's nothing you can you do about it. Like you said, please return to your regular scheduled cuteness.

Craig Wesley said...

See? What can I say, but: roll on with the puppies, please David.

Misty said...

That just sucks and there isn't a thing you can do about it.
Reiley and Owen are 7 years apart. When Owen was 3 and Reiley was 10 it was hardly noticeable. Reiley had the best games and Owen was just happy to play his role. Now Reiley is 14, Owen is 7. They might as well be 200 years apart some days.
It breaks my heart, but what can I do? I do not look forward to Reiley leaving for college...

Dave Atkinson said...

And we can just watch, and offer comfort. Jess and Jane aren't the only ones who grew a little older in this story.

Anonymous said...

I thought of this post after I finished talking to my university student daughter who is having "issues" with a girl in her residence. Unfortunately a game of hide and seek no longer works to remedy most ills--especially when they are hundreds of miles away.
Hate to tell you this, Dave, but the desire to protect and kiss it better never really leaves, no matter how old they are.

SharkBoy said...

It's tough to be a child... good lord, I'd never want to be at that age again...f

Dave Atkinson said...

Anon, I hold no illusions that any of this gets any easier. I try not to tie my emotions to the their growing up, but we're hard-wired to protect.

Sharkboy, totally. So many emotions, raw and unfiltered.