I just woke up from a damnable dream. There was this certain knowledge that a fourth cat lived either in our house or at my office. His name was Max. That much I knew. I had been away and finally noticed that catfood had built up over the rim of the bowl and all over the floor–but no Max. I peeked outside and saw a streak of white and gray, opened a door and yelled “Max!” and in came the cat running with a limp, with bald patches and ripped skin. He settled into a bean bag chair near the door, obviously exhausted from whatever adventure had taken the better part of him. I was beside myself, starting to wring my hands, not knowing what to do.Should I pick you up? I asked him, “or leave you alone?” And in the blink of an eye, “Max” became my youngest daughter, sitting in that bean bag, with gashes out of her leg and a look on her face that said it all: “where were you?”
This same youngest daughter–in awake state–has been something of a pistol lately. I don’t know if it is the typical end-of-the-school-year-kids-are-sick-of-each-other state of grumpiness or something much deeper. She is yelling alot, at her father mostly, and me some, but saving a bit of tenderness for me. But only a bit.
The dream crystalized this for me, as I looked at the kid that was a cat in the dream and recognized the reproach in her eyes that masked terror and horror and the question “why didn’t anybody notice I was missing? You would have noticed!” Which is what I felt pierce me as I woke: I would notice, but the people I left in charge would not, did not. Why didn’t anyone notice?
Something’s going on with this kid, I know. The signs are less than subtle and no one is taking the time to tease it out and give it space to be less than what it appears to be now, right now in the life of a sixth-grade girl.
It is the biggest regret of my current working situation: that I am not home when she gets home. The other two can fend for themselves, but this one is the youngest and relies on her older sisters to provide for her what I provided for them. And it isn’t working. No damage has occurred yet, but there’s this fragile girl looking for someone to ask “how was your day … here, have a cookie” with a smile and a hug. And it isn’t there. Not even one day per week.
This is what I miss–that time and space in an afternoon that begins with a generous hug that says there is no rush, all is well, all will be well. And it all gets served up with a plateful (or bowlful) of love.
It will be well. She will be well. Especially now that someone is, for the time being, paying attention.