Monday, March 23, 2009

Five-year-old Little Girls

Last week I helped my daughter do some painting.  While we cleaned up the mess, she asked her daughter Ava to play with the boys. The boys are two-year-old twins, Beau and Beck. 

When Beau found me, I knew to go looking for Beck. Still in the backyard with Ava all right, Beck had made his own mess.

When my daughter saw Beck's face, he acted like he was proud of how he looked—smiling, searching for if not certain of her approval.

“That's what happens when you ask a five-year-old to watch a two-year-old,” she said.

With four kids, how does she stay so calm?

Timing punctuated those images. Waiting for me when I got home, my aunt had sent a package of letters my mom had written to her. Eager to explore these treasures, the next morning I pulled out a few random letters to read, not knowing what to expect.

From a letter my mom wrote in 1956 when I was five-years-old and my sister Renée was three: 

“The kids are bratty as ever. Carol went to church yesterday alone (we live about 3 doors down) & I told her to come back right after Sunday School. So she dragged in about 12. When she gets out of my sight she takes things in. And Renée talks to me something terrible--tells me how ugly I am, to shut up, dammit, & go to hell. I washed her mouth out with soap & it helped for about 5 minutes.”

That paragraph is verbatim, down to the numbers and ampersands. Growing up, I remember going to church by myself; I just didn’t know I started at age five.

Every mother was at one time a five-year-old little girl. Five-year-olds do indeed “take things in.” And mothers somehow learn to keep their cool.

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