“Mama? Is the TV coming with us?”, she asked, looking up suddenly while watching The Lion King.
“Yep. The TV is coming.”
“Is Mufasa? And my dinosaurs? And the markers?”, she questioned, her eyes scanning the room with a worried look on her face.
“Yes. Everything you see: everything we own is coming. All your toys, your books, your clothes, Carsey, all of it is coming to Boston.”
“Are the walls coming? Is my room coming to Boston?”
“Oh, no. Ok, see… no, your room is not coming. The walls stay here, but your things are going to go into ANOTHER room: a bigger one, ok? It’s gonna be awesome, ok?”
Two hours later she looks up from her watercolors and asks, “Are my paints coming? And the stairs?”
“Uh, all the art supplies are coming, but the stairs are not coming. They stay here. With the walls.”
This morning I was walking alongside her while she quietly rode her mini-kick to preschool. Ordinarily I’m sprinting along behind her for the five block trip, struggling to keep up as she speedily scoots along, chatting happily and ringing her little scooter bell at everyone who passes. She was slower this morning, staring at the ground and absent-mindedly bonking into the wrought iron gates along the brownstone-lined sidewalks. Stopping at a cross walk along a busy intersection for a red light, she looked up at me, her cheeks all rosy and wind-burned from the cold morning air and asked, “Mommy? Is Sarah* coming to Boston?”.
Sarah has been one of LJ’s closest friends from the day she was born. Her mother and I, desperate to get out of our small apartments during that maddeningly insane first year, had these girls out at the toddler playground as soon as they could sit up. They’ve been a constant in each other’s lives for as long as they’ve even been alive.
“No sweets,” I said, as we started to make our way across the street, “Sarah isn’t coming to Boston. Your Brooklyn friends will stay here, but we’ll come back to visit them, and they can come visit us! It’ll be fun! You’ll make even more friends in Boston and then they can meet your old friends and it will be awesome!”
I could tell she wasn’t listening as she picked up the pace a little bit and sped off in front of me. My heart hurt.
I punched in the security code at the preschool gate and followed her as she quietly walked down the stairs into her classroom. Crouching down at her cubby to help take her coat off and put her lunchbox in its regular spot I heard Eddy- her favorite kid in the universe; the boy she talks about with a twinkle in her eye every day; the boy her teacher even mentioned at our parent teacher conference as someone LJ seems to fancy- come over shouting, “LOTTE’S HERE!! HI LOTTE!” with a huge smile on his face. Ordinarily LJ would seemingly jump out of her skin with joy and immediately grab his hand as they run off to play on the carpet, but today she said nothing. She looked down at her feet and went and sat at a table in front of a tray of moon sand.
“Good morning, Lotte!”, said one of her teachers in that sing-songy voice required of all preschool teachers.
Lotte said nothing. She did nothing. She sat with her hands in her lap staring sadly at the mound of pink and purple moon sand in front of her while all the other kids buzzed around her, busy with activity. I knelt down beside her to give her a huge hug, kissed her on the top of her head, said my usual, “Have so much fun, sweets! I’ll see you later!” and walked out of the room.
It was as if someone ripped my heart out of my chest and stomped on it.
I really thought she was too young to “get it”: that she would handle this transition with aplomb, but OH, MAN, was I wrong. What did I expect from someone who likes to hear the same exact bedtime story every single night? From someone who would watch the same movie five times a day if I let her? From someone who wants to eat the same exact lunch every single day? She’s absolutely terrified.
I know she’ll adapt quickly, and I know she’ll end up loving everything about our new home, but for now? I wish I could just hunker down, hug her tightly and wake up to our new lives in our new house without the packing, the goodbyes and the anxiety. I wish I could hug her sadness and confusion away.
(*name has been changed. just because.)