We were all prepared for life to change when Gideon arrived. I knew that the girls would experience a difficult period of transition as they adapted to the new reality of having a baby boy in the house. I had prepared myself to go through this transition with them, like a skilled pathfinder leading a party of young hunters through the forest. I had mapped the course, circled the obstacles with a large red grease pencil, and cleaned and sharpened our survival tools. I felt ready to lift my family over whatever cliff or stream we came to. But it seems this territory is equally tangled and unfamiliar to all of us. And the journey ahead would not be without sudden casualties.
I stubbed my toe the hardest on this fact just the other day. I crawled out of bed and began my traditional morning routine. Clara, the early riser, was already awake, and while I chose a shirt to wear the two of us discussed life and our plans for the day. Then we sat close together on the small couch in my bedroom while I pulled on my socks and watched the rest of the family sleep.
As I finished with my last sock Gideon woke up grunting and his mother took him to the other room to change his diaper. Clara and I exchanged a laugh at the little boy’s scrunched nose as Andrea carried him out of the room on her shoulder.
I pat the little girl on the leg gently. “Come on. Let’s go downstairs. I need to brush my teeth and comb my hair.” She followed me out of the room on her way to sit on the counter next to me while I finished getting ready. This is our morning tradition, and has been for years. But as I descended the stairs I was struck with an odd premonition. At the bottom I turned around to find that my tiny shadow was not behind me anymore. She was still standing at the top of the steps. She stared down at me, nervously wringing her hands.
“What’s wrong?” I asked. But with a knot in my belly I knew what was happening. It was as if I had a psychic connection with the little girl’s mind. I could feel the gravity shift. I had been so blind. In my path finding through these unknown woods of transition I myself had fallen into the hole. I gave her a moment to choose her words and waited.
Finally, she looked down at me and gently asked, “Can I help mom with Gideon instead?”
I smiled reassuringly and nodded. In her excitement she was at least polite enough not to run. She slowly turned and walked back down the hallway and into the other room. She glanced over her shoulder a few times and was gone.
It was a few moments after she disappeared from sight before I descended the second set of stairs in the direction of the bathroom.
I quietly washed my face and brushed my teeth, trying not to pay too much attention to the empty square next to me in the bathroom mirror.
As I started combing my hair I heard a loud thumping sound coming down the stairs. I leaned to look out the door and waiting for the thumping to round the corner. As it did, I saw a little girl silhouetted in the sunlight streaming through the living room windows behind her. Her hair was a large bramble of curls. A fireworks finale of hair surrounding a wide smile. She moved with deliberate and determined excitement on her way to meet me. I was transported back several years in my memory to an image of an energetic little girl in diapers rushing to meet with her father in the bathroom. She turned and slid backwards down the final flight of stairs and then tumbled through the bathroom door.
As if pulled into a vacuum, she had been drawn to me. I knelt and tousled the little girl’s hair.
“Good Morning Lydia.” I smiled. “Would you like to sit here on the counter while I finish getting ready?”
Her wordless reply was to wrap her arms around my neck as I lifted her into the air.