"Hi!" I cried, emerging from my car and scooping Little One into my arms for a 'welcome to Aunt Katie's house!' cuddle. "Oh, I missed you," I murmured, rubbing the back of her puffy coat and burying my face in her hair.
"We found the eggs and presents," she told me, offering a smile before cuddling close again. I hugged her tighter and smiled, thinking of shuffling through the house last night and placing 50 eggs filled with candy and PlayDoh and bubbles on windowsills and shelves, in corners and under furniture. There were Barbies in the sinks upstairs and Webkinz on the kitchen table with the sidewalk chalk. And I ordered personalized maps online that I left in the dining room.
I buy things so people will like me.
And it works, I decided as Smallest One came out the door, face brightening in a silly grin as she reached for me and began to chatter about the picture she drew ("it's very pretty") and eggs she found ("on the stairs and by the couch and in the cloud room and by the plants") and how she was at Aunt Katie's house! I listened and nodded as I held her close, helping her into her puffy green jacket against the gloomy, chilly afternoon.
We took a walk, Chienne out front and small girls at each side and my parents trailing behind. I turned my head from side to side, listening to their simultaneous stories and nodding to taps on my arm or squeezes of my hand when I didn't reply with suitable speed. I learned about school and gymnastics and a play and recital. Soccer and their cat and what they wanted to do during the visit.
We went for lunch and I sat between them, grinning at the thought that it was now more a privledge than a chore. I do like children, but I don't love drool or messes or other dining grossness. And I always ended up icky after meals with them - sticky or stained - and wrinkled my nose a bit. But they are, at 6.5 and 3.5, quite self suffient and neat. So Smallest had macaroni and cheese with grapes and Little decided on a cheese pizza. And apart from a couple dabs of a napkin or help rolling up sleeves, it was just like dining with tiny yet perfectly wonderful friends.
We came home to play outside, bundled against the cold even as we engaged in springtime activies - blowing bubbles, drawing pictures with chalk, chasing tennis balls with the dog. Then we came upstairs to play before bathtime. Little One gravitates toward my closet, trying on shoes and pulling dresses from hangers that drape past her ankles.
"Here," I suggested when she stumbled over another dress. "Let's go strapless with one of my skirts." And I gathered extra fabric in a tiny clip when she emerged with the slip of white dotted with blue flowers flowing around her. "You're so pretty," I sighed, smoothing her hair and admiring eyes that look like mine. She plucked a scarf from a drawer and tied it about her neck. And she looked so elegant and grown up for a moment, turning to assess her reflection that I thought she was so full of promise and personality.
Smallest One emerged behind her sister, dancing around in one of my bras and I giggled at her, thinking her full of a rather different sort of personality. She has little of the quiet beauty of her sister but is stunning in her wit and daring, demanding attention and offering comments and throwing tantrums in the rare instance where she doesn't get her way.
"I do not have huge boobs," I replied to Smallest One's comment, teasingly indignant. "And that's a perfectly nice bra," I decided of the white fabric. We played and laughed and made butterflies from toilet paper rolls.
"Girls," I offered a couple hours later. "I need to take a call for work. So can we play quietly now?" They agreed, hesitant to leave the room where I was and I felt a moment's guilt that I don't spend enough time with them. But I dialed the number and reclined on my pillows, focused mostly on my colleagues but keeping an eye on nieces prone to squabbles.
I nodded when Little One asked if she could play with the other phone in my room - it's Pottery Barn and very pretty but not currently plugged in. So she and Smallest took turns pushing buttons and holding the receiver to small ears.
"It's my turn to talk to work," Little One said, reaching for the phone and beginning to discuss schedules.
"I need to call work next," Smallest One demanded, folding her arms impatiently.
And I wanted to cover them with kisses for wanting to be like me - I was so honored that they want to wear my clothes and share components of my life and like coming to where I live. I'm not sure I'm the greatest of role models but there are pieces of who I am and what I do that are good. That could fit into what they see from the other women in their lives and see where everything fits together.
I just love them so much. And think they're so wonderful. And can't wait to watch them continue to grow up.