Shorty after Alena was born, I can’t remember when exactly, but sometime that same summer, Leila (who was extremely verbal for 2) created imaginary friends. Well, actually, imaginary children. Her “Little Girls”. She took them everywhere, clenching her fists closed, holding them. They were babies, two girls named Leila and Alena. Little Girls were in our life for a long time.
Time went on, and the Little Girls grew. Sometimes they were grown up and moved away but coming to visit, sometimes they had their own babies and Leila was the Nanny. Sometimes they were babies again. Sometimes they were in her belly, or “not here yet”. Sometimes they were dead and she was very, very sad.
I just realized today that it’s been a while since the Little Girls have been around. I guess, in her own way, Leila used her imagination to comprehend changes in life, starting with the biggest one, the arrival of her little sister. It was wonderful to watch her process as she adjusted to things, always played out in a scenario with her “children”.
There have been a lot of changes in Leila lately. The noise-sensitive, fearful toddler has gone. Leila has never liked surprises, and when she was younger I would have to explain to her exactly what was planned for the day. I once took her to the doctor, explained exactly what the doctor would do (check eyes, ears, throat, etc), and she understood. But when the doctor deviated from that plan and asked her to cough (she must have been sick), she panicked, and started crying (screaming) in fear of him.
She ran in a kids race, spring 2009. And the noise combined with the throngs of people and shot-gun start had her in fearful tears. This past spring she ran in the race again (her request to do so, I would never push something like that). The whistle blew and off she ran, letting go of Steve’s hand immediately. I watched from the finish line, astounded in the change one year has brought. I screamed her name and jumped as high as I could, cheering and holding back tears.
She learned to swim this summer, paddling quickly around the shallow end of my parents pool. She happily gets her hands dirty at the park. She pokes caterpillars with blades of grass. She crouches in the front garden and pulls weeds for me. I watch her, amazed, at her ability to jump on one foot and kick a soccer ball across the yard and throw a stick for the dog. She proudly shows off scrapes and bruises on her legs. She bosses her sister around and stomps her feet when she’s mad.
My baby is growing up, and it’s all happening right in front of my eyes, but passing so quickly that sometimes it feels like I missed a year or two of it. And oh, how wonderful it is to watch this person emerge and to see who she really is. But I think that, somewhere deep down, I may have thought this would never happen. I may have thought she’d be my baby forever.