Back home after the weekend at her dad’s house, she’s halfway through the door with tangled curls that catch the sun telling me ten stories at once. Sweet big sister, the baby’s already on her hip. All these years in the well worn tread of routine but it hasn’t gotten easier, missing her. Only more familiar in nine year’s time. At first it seemed impossible, to have to let go. If even for a moment, then a day. She was just shy of two, and still my baby. A tiny girl, a bright light in all the cloudy memories of dark days and sleepless nights. Negotiations, on time and schedules. Those first afternoons she spent with him lingered on in aching hours- just a short drive to his place in the next town over. Yesterday, we shared each breath – I had never felt so far away.
Your funny chatter from the backseat and little bare feet. How you have bloomed, you have grown up so gracefully in the two houses that are both your home.
Her sister is only a few months older than she was, then. She plays at my feet on the floor in mid morning and her lake damp hair sticks to her forehead, cheeks rosy from those last few teeth pushing through. Her world is small. She’s never had to really miss me. I have never wondered what she ate for dinner or if she had a bath today – the collective moments at day’s end which are ours to weigh and measure and reflect upon, the night’s last sleeping kiss.
I will always miss her when she isn’t here. The days go by a little slower, a little quieter. Her messy room, our biggest argument, is somehow comforting then. I let it be until the last minute and then I carefully straighten it for her. A weekly ritual. I smooth her covers and pick up her books, all the while finding forgotten pieces of her days. Pieces of her. A crumpled note from school, a drawing half done underneath the desk.
I set it out for you to finish if you’d like. I know they miss you just as much when you are here, with us. The way you make us laugh, especially your baby siblings. You are kind and gentle, confident and wise. I wonder if you know all the magic that you are: how when we’re not together we’re never quite apart. I dreamed of you, before you were here. Once in a poem, I walked through the desert with a little hand clasped in mine. You were there in my words, a thought, a song, my darling. And when we say goodbye, over and over, I still never let you go.