We have entered a new season as a family. And by season I don’t mean the kind that changes leaves from green to orange, but rather a change of seasons like “Congratulations Mr.Smith. The network has renewed your show for another year, but there’s going to be a smaller budget and you have to deal with even more ridiculous side characters that don’t make sense.”
Because this is the season where life introduces the quirky neighbor girls that come knocking on the door at 8 in the morning on a Saturday and stand in the living room making snarky comments while I’m trying to have serious conversations with my children. “Sorry Mr.S, but maybe you should have taken up basket weaving!” I stare at the wall, and somewhere in distance I can hear a laugh track.
Of course, I have to be happy about this. Clara has wanted to be friends with the gang of neighbor girls for all of her young life. She has tried for years to work her way into their society, but was never able to do it. It wasn’t until she set up her “Lemonade Sdand” that these girls started to give her the respect she deserved. So, now, this band of girls that I have only ever seen at a distance is standing inside my living room flipping through the books on my book case when I get home from work in the evening.
“What are you doing?”
“Oh, nothing. I’m just looking at your books.” They shrug. “Can Clara play?”
I’m taken aback. “What do you mean, can Clara play? You are standing in my house. Didn’t she let you in?”
“No. I was walking by on the street and noticed your door was open, so I thought I’d come and look at your books.”
I grit my teeth and call for Clara. She comes up from the basement where she was watching cartoons, “Hi Dad. Oh, you let in Meadow!” And they run off together.
And I am left secretly wishing I could find a way to make these pesky neighbor girls disappear back across the street again. Until the other day at least, when I was convinced otherwise.
My daughters were out riding bikes on the street with their friends while my wife and I worked on the garage, and I suddenly heard a loud screeching sound and turned to watch Clara slide her bicycle sideways along a patch of gravel and crumple herself up in a smoldering heap at the end of a nearby driveway.
I ran to help her and arrived at the same time as the gang of pink bikers that had been racing to catch up to her when she crashed. They all crowded around as I checked my daughter for bleeding and then tried to help her up. As she put weight on her foot she winced and fell back down. I ran my hand along it and confirmed it wasn’t obviously broken or anything. But it was definitely a bad sprain or bruise. I would have to carry her back to the house and she would need to sit on the couch for the rest of the afternoon.
“But I don’t want to sit on the couch all day! It’s Saturday, and it’s the only day I get to play with my friends because they have to go to public school all week.” But there was no other choice. She couldn’t move even if I had let her.
I placed her on the couch in the living room and got her a bag of ice, then I went to check on her little brother. When I came back, Clara was still groaning quietly on the couch, but our dining room table was quickly being converted into a disaster area. Lydia was directing two other girls on where to find every marker and paint set in all our secret cubby holes and was dumping everything into piles across the table.
“Great…” I thought to myself. “Now they are just going to hang out in my dining room and make a mess of our art supplies.”
I sat down across from them so I could supervise. One of the girls looked up from her paper and smiled. I smiled back. I had never realized that she had freckles before. Of course, the little red headed girl that drives by on the motorized scooter would have freckles. On the opposite side of Lydia was Meadow, a dark haired girl that looks an awful lot like Clara. She was testing the third in a series of markers and had found them each to be dry. She slapped her forehead in frustration and yelled out, “Seriously!?”
“Hey!” I thought. “That’s was a Clara reaction! My daughter has spent so much time with these girls that they are starting to act like her! Maybe I should get to know them a little bit.”
“What are you guys working on?” I ask.
They glance towards the living room and shush me. Meadow discreetly pushes a folded piece of paper in my direction and whispers, “Can you write something for me, please? Write, ‘Dear Clara. Get well soon. I’m sorry about your foot.'”
I get it now. I see what is happening. I write, “Dear Clara, I’m sorry your leg fell off while you were doing rad stunts on your bicycle.” and I hand it back to her. “Is that what you wanted?”
She pretends to read it, “It’s perfect! Thank you!”
“What is perfect?” Clara asks from the other room.
“You’ll see!” the three of them sing in harmony.
They sat there all afternoon and then they went out with a mason jar and filled it with raspberries and gave it to Clara as a get well present. I watched over Clara’s shoulder as she opened Meadow’s card. Inside was a picture of two girls with dark hair riding bikes side by side and the words “Your my best frend Your my best frend Your my best frend.”
This was their pack now. These were their friends. My daughters were not simply my daughters anymore. They were now a part of a different community. And it is exciting and strange and for me, absolutely terrifying, but with a silent nod of approval from behind their backs, I opened the front door and quietly left it open.