When the Elsa Braid Begins to Fade

Written by: Andrea Angileri

She woke up the other day and grabbed the hair brush on my dresser. I watched her carefully brush through her newly trimmed hair and fling her hair back swiftly to head off to the next more important thing. Somedays she’ll ask me to put an ‘Elsa braid’ in, one single haphazard braid that will swing on a designated side of her neck….but not today. Today she will ask me to paint her fingernails in a pink..purple…pink..purple pattern ….I oblige. When we came to terms with the fact that a haircut would be easier to avoid summer snarls, she commented “Cut it like Jillian’s on EvanTube” and used her small hand to make a karate chop motion towards her upper neckline….I didn’t quite oblige.
I sit with her in her room and we play ‘Christmas Morning’. I pretend to be asleep and she sticks random belongings into a box and I feign surprise and excitement as I go through the odd arrangement of toy hoard. A ‘Frozen’ microphone, a hot pink dolphin, a Hello Kitty jewelry box jammed with plastic wristbands, a lunchbox jammed with McDonald’s toys. It’s a rainy summer day, so there is less rushing. I realize that we can repeat this routine for hours and the boys will be content to entertain each other. They are busy with their Minecraft, YouTube and music. I’ll be sought out if somebody wants a pizza..or if the sun comes out. I know that the dishwasher is sloshing and the dryer is tumbling and everything else will still be there. I pet Bailey, one of our Cocker Spaniels. He is the only dog who finds this imaginative little girl play amusing, probably because he hung around the young girl of his previous owner.
I realize that one day, this will only be a memory… the little girl, the pretend play, the toy clutter, even the dog. It makes the moment so much more bittersweet. I’ll remind myself to just appreciate the moment. It’s June…the summer is optimistically young. I realize that in two short months she will be skipping off to full day Kindergarten.
Just the fact that I chose the word ‘skipping’ probably says a lot. It says that I am hopeful…and frankly, equipped for the next chapter. On the upside, it will be the first time I will actually not be required to get OUT of my car for school drop offs. Sure, it sounds a little ‘lady that doesn’t need to be in a motorized scooter at Walmart-ish’…but…I’ve paid my dues.
And yet… a whole new chapter. No daily 10:40 a.m. pick-ups, no lunch dates, no ‘Take Me to Nana’s’ pick-up announcement. My five year old will soon blend in with her brothers for school day drop-offs and pick-ups. That occasional 3 ½ hour chunk of one-on-one time will be have to be more strategically carved out on weekends and summer breaks. Soon she will want to be more social and bring in a whole new cast of characters into her life. She’ll declare that ‘Elsa braids are for babies’ and that too will fade. I have four children, so it’s not that I’m a stranger to watching the baby fat slenderize. My oldest at 14 is now eye level to myself. He’s as much of the worlds as he is mine. I must say that having four children has helped me take the sting out of letting go…slightly.

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She won’t remember sitting on the floor playing with her little purple and white plastic dollhouse. He won’t remember sitting on the floor playing with his Thomas the Tank Engine set. He won’t remember lining up his cars strategically in rows as he plays with the parking garage. He won’t remember his early interest in flipping pancakes in the kitchen, but I will. I’ll know that whenever memories fall short, digital memory holds firm. The photographs, the video footage, and yes…even all of the ranting and raving and oversharenting on social media. A reminder of who they were when they were small and who noticed.