From Age Five

From age five, they were in love. It was meet-the-teacher night, and school hadn’t even started yet. We meandered through the hallways and classrooms of the school we’d chosen, hoping for Spanish immersion and IB education. They were the two oldest daughters of three siblings, and they chatted, did cartwheels, and were holding hands before the night was over.

Her tall and slender, long-lashed mother quietly commented, “You see? They’re already best friends.”

And so, nine years later, when I texted my daughter to make room in her drawers and space in her bed for a loooong sleepover, her only, immediate, obvious response was, “REALLY!!!!!! OMG THIS IS AMAZING!!!!”

Because when you’re in love, when you have a connection, it does not matter if six extra people are going to live in a house built for… five?

Because when you make a fast friend at age five, when emotions are so visceral and honest, it’s probably something worth cherishing.

Because when you have a bonus-five-bedroom dream house, why not share the dream?

Because if the situation were reversed, wouldn’t we all, minute by minute, hand in hand, reach out and make the world just slightly better, one soul, one family at a time?

Because what makes a family?

Girl Scouts. Trials and tribulations. Cookie selling. Lost money. Lost causes. Frustrations. And so much fun you would laugh until you nearly peed your pants, all in the snow on a bitter cold January night. Bridging ceremonies, brownies, a baby brother in tow on camping trips.

Backyard barbecues. Eating meat or not eating it. Sharing our sad stories. Telling the truths we were never able to tell in the schoolyard, at our jobs, in our “real lives,” but that slid so easily from our mouths in the comfort of our back patio.

Camping trips. Sharing pies and drinks and a bite of an ice-cold river. And again, laughing until we cried under a hazy moon and starlit sky.

Sleepovers. Girls screaming into the night, little brothers trying to keep up and eating two giant waffles before ten a.m., before they were even ten years old.

School. The daily ins and outs, friends come and gone, field days and jumping into the sky as if you were jumping right up into heaven. Teachers we loved and hated and commiserated. Our shared experience.

Family parties. Little girls in pretty dresses pretending to drink tea. Everyone, kids and parents, gathering household items to make a Halloween-happy costume. Parents gathering in the kitchen to catch the scene and capture a moment of each other’s joy, each other’s sadness. The connection found in youth, in young parenthood, in the heavy task of raising young people to become wise people.

Because… from the age of five, they were in love. Look how they’ve grown. Look at the young women they have become. Look at the family they have made for themselves.

That is why we can add six people to our five-person house. Because from age five, these girls have carried us into the home we call home. It began with a smile, a cartwheel, a hug.

That, and rearranging some beds, is about all it takes.

What Matters. For Today.

At lunch, we share our stories. What did you do? When did you do it? Who was it with?

She is still in my care, but the time when I must let her go is ever-present. I don’t want to think about her truly being gone, but … alas, high school is the stepping stone to adult life.

I was sixteen… I could drive… and it was with someone I wish it wasn’t.

I was nineteen… and I regret it too.

I was fifteen… And I learned from it, and grew from it, so it’s all good.

The loss is so close to me I can taste its bitter tears on my tongue. Hours earlier, she left her backpack in my classroom to meet him upstairs in the cafeteria. Normally she gets her tray, a smoothie or a sausage sandwich, and returns to eat in my room.

Not today.

Today, she only came back to retrieve her backpack. No boy trailed behind her, and when I asked, “Where’s the boy?” she gave me her leave-me-alone look, and my two Nepali students giggled and said, “Miss, I can’t believe you’re going to allow her to date. You’re so much nicer than our moms.”

But what am I to do? Whether she sees him for a month or five minutes, could I really put a stop to the spinning wheels of time, to the carousel Joni Mitchell sang through my childhood?

This is the child who, at two and a half years old, stayed up longer than me at my cousin’s wedding to dance until the band. Went. Home.

This is the child who, at nine, learned how to speak Spanish even though she’d ignored all lessons in America for the previous four years, because once we were in Spain, Spanish was required to. Make. Friends.

This is the child who, at age fourteen, stomped off into the wilderness with three of her fellow Girl Scouts and adamantly told them that they weren’t lost, only to call me ninety minutes later and declare, “We’re lost. But we’re together.”

I certainly can’t tell her, “Stop.” She’s been spinning since she was a little girl, and I am not the world she spins around.

I was sixteen. I was in love with a loser.

But I didn’t marry him.

Isn’t that all that matters?