Wednesday, January 25, 2012
“Mama has baby in her tummy,” says Ella to a group of moms and daughers waiting for dance class to begin.
“What? No! No, mommy does not,” I say. “Just Christmas cookies, people. I made an astonishing number of Christmas cookies this year.”
With two new baby cousins in the family, Ella is lobbying hard, in her own way, for a baby brother or sister. She has made it clear that gender is of unimportance: she just wants a small round baby the size of a loaf of bread who coos and cries and wears diapers. You know. Your average nightmare.
“I loooove babies.”
Yesterday was Ella’s first dance class. I dropped the three boys at a friend’s house, to Ella’s dismay. She is adamantly opposed to being separated from her twin. She screamed all the way to the community center. We waited in the car until she calmed down. I pleaded. I threatened. I counted to three. She would not stop screaming. I reminded her how badly she wanted to take dance class. I threw out words she loves: ballet! Tap! Gymnastics! Pink! Girlfriends! She sobbed.
When she finally settled down, we joined the gathering of waiting moms and daughters, all of the little girls dressed in pink tutus and worn ballet slippers. This is my first girl. I had no idea where to buy relatively inexpensive tutus and ballet shoes, so we arrived in sneakers and comfortable stretch pants. (Turns out, Payless and Target! Who knew?)
This did not go over well with Ella.
“Pink! I want pink! I need dress!” I promised we would get her dance clothes this week. Another tantrum commenced, and I held my squirming, squalling child while the other moms looked on with fear. This little girl will be in my daughter’s class?
And just like that, Ella was quiet. With the flick of some mysterious switch, she was happy again. She pointed at me and announced the impending arrival of my phantom cookie baby.
Earlier that day, I had given Ella the Heimlich maneuver. One moment, she was happily devouring a peanut butter and jelly sandwich; the next moment, she was struggling to breathe. I took three long strides across the room, pulled Ella toward me, squeezed beneath her rib cage, and she spit up a large chunk of bread. Her raspy, choking breaths were like music. I held her and promised she would be okay, promised I would always take care of her. She smiled at me, held my cheeks with her small hands and said, “I know.”
Before the girls entered the gym, I pulled the dance teacher, Miss Nikki, aside and told her Ella was a bit different. Special. I spoke of learning disorders and speech delays and receptive communication issues. Miss Nikki clapped her hands excitedly,
“I have a graduate degree in special ed! I love working with kids like Ella!”
Through the window, I watched six little girls walk on point, practicing wobbly plies to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Miss Nikki helped them form proper poses, one little girl trying her hardest in cumbersome sneakers. And I can’t be sure, but I think that little girl was Miss Nikki’s favorite.