Sometime last spring, Saoirse came home from preschool telling me that Easter was a holiday on which we celebrate reading books and getting candy from a bunny. Within 15 minutes, she was signed up for our church’s vacation Bible school. I’m not a super enthusiastic religious person–I talk about faith with my family, with David, but, by golly, when my Catholic kid comes home and has no clue of the connection of God with, like, the biggest Christian holiday ever, Mama’s getting her Catholic out. Or her wallet, as the case was this time. Twenty bucks later, VBS was on the calendar.
But what I didn’t anticipate was how Quinn was going to react to her sister being gone all week during the mornings. Quinn had a hard time as it was during SK’s two preschool days a week last year, but we were busy during those days. We had errands, and classes. This year will be even harder for her, even with those activities to keep her occupied, because Saoirse will be in school more often. But we have no schedule this summer. We play and swim and take regular baths in SPF 55. That’s it. There’s nothing to keep her occupied.
Even with that, when we dropped of SK Monday morning at VBS, I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t braced for the look on Quinn’s face when Saoirse walked away from her. I couldn’t handle the little voice that said in my ear, “I want to go with Saoirse.” I didn’t do so well on our trip to the store, either, as I saw Quinn through my rearview mirror, clutching her stuffed dolphin and staring out the window: ”Saoirse, bye-bye. Saoirse, bye-bye.” She repeated those words the entire time we were in the car.
I didn’t anticipate the sorrow. Not tears, not whining–the sorrow. This child was mourning the absence of her sister for those 2 1/2 hours. What the heck am I going to do when SK’s back in preschool?
We spent the first morning at the grocery store, then at home. Quinn played and watched a little PBS. She asked about Saoirse. And at 11:15, when I said it was time to see her, Quinn dropped every toy in her hands onto the floor, shouted, “Saoirse! Yaaaayyyy! I see Saoirse!” and clambered up the stairs to the first floor like I’d promised her a milkshake.
Maybe I SHOULD have given her a milkshake, because when Quinn reached the top of the stairs, stood up, and looked at the back door, she burst into tears. She looked at me like I’d just ripped the head off of her toy dolphin, and I got it: she thought I’d meant SK was coming home. She was expecting her to walk through the door.
I am the best mother ever.
All was well once we actually were able to leave the church community room with the Mighty’s big sister. The sisters chattered the entire way home, with Quinn peppering SK with question after question. Once home, they disappeared downstairs and played, and all I could hear was Quinn’s laughing and giggling and excited chatter.
I keep thinking that Quinn would enjoy alone time with me or David. I encourage him to take Quinn to the store like he used to do with SK, or I look forward to spending time with Quinn by herself when, yes, SK is in school. But Quinn doesn’t like it. She just bides her time until she can see her sis again. She humors us by playing along, but the entire time, it’s “Where’s Saoirse?” ”When can I see Saoirse?” She looks toward the door, waits for the moment when she can be beside her again, following her around the room, up the stairs, through her life.
I once thought there was no love as big as the one a parent has for a child, but I think I may have been wrong. I look at these two girls, watch Quinn looking at Saoirse as she teaches her a new skill, and I know: no love is as strong as the one a child has for her big sibling. That stuff is made out of diamonds.