Lucky Seven / by Susie Lubell

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Dearest Sugar Bee,

It was your birthday yesterday and I fell in love with you again. We were out in the desert with friends and you were your beautiful, lively self. Enjoying your family and friends and the sunshine and the wacky antelope ranch where we stayed. You said you wanted to stay there for a whole week. We spent a lot of time holding hands and swinging in a hammock and talking about life. I gave you your number seven charm to wear around your neck this year. The charm that I wore when I was seven and Grandma wore and Aunt Lenore too. The charm that Grammy brought into our lives. Lucky seven. And how lucky we are.

Flashback a week and we are fighting about homework. Again. You are giving me that look. Slack jawed, tongue forward, rolled eyes, wobbling your head like you work in the Main Bazaar.

How do you even know how to do that? There are like three Indians who live in Israel.

And I want to kill you. I feel my chest tighten and I want to shriek that I can't stand you. That I don't understand why you treat me the way you do.

Why only me?

I try to diffuse your frustration and anger. I'm pretty good at that. I've had a lot of practice. Plus I know reading is hard but you've come so far! You can't hear me because you are too far gone. I excuse myself from homework and give myself a time out in my bedroom and hold my head in my hands until the anger dissipates. When you calm down you knock on my door and we hug. You give me the picture you drew of us together. I smile and thank you and add it to the pile. We continue to work, you finish your homework and peace is restored to our home.

And so it goes Sugar Bee. Two steps forward, one step back. Which of course mostly refers to my own progress in navigating our relationship. You are forging ahead as best you can and you are magnificent. You are strong and loving and confident and curious and wild and silly and expressive. You are finding your stride and it is beautiful to watch.

But we clash, as do mothers and daughters. And it reminds me of clashes I used to have with Grandma. And that's hard too. A friend of mine with a four year old asked me what was the deal with her "teenager" and I gave her a knowing smile. I told her it eases up with time. And it does. I can see that. Our clashes are fewer and further between. We no longer fight about the "bumps" in your high ponytail. Getting dressed in the morning is a non-issue (school uniforms help). We do that funny thing now when we feel a fight starting we put up our fists and make our meanest faces. And then we laugh. But sometimes the fury comes on so fast that we miss our window and it gets ugly.

It's all okay though, you know why Sugar Bee? Because you are still just seven. You are not a teenager. You just play at it sometimes and play is good.

You are still just seven,

I remind myself. It's been a year of big changes, like every year, but you still play with dolls and you still like unicorns and rainbows and Strawberry Shortcake and Rainbow Loom and drawing and dancing in front of the mirror and snuggling and pretty hairbands and climbing trees and hiking and Ivy and Bean and Hello Kitty and Legos and riding bikes and baking. And you love Judo.

What would we do without Judo?

You have great friends who still like to play house and build forts and hold hands with you at school. You have one brother who thinks even your farts are magical and another brother, who, despite his constant teasing and antagonism, admits he can't live without you. And you have two parents who often find themselves staring at you and wondering how such an astonishing creature came from them. In fact you are surrounded by love and admiration going back generations and you know it. You feel it. So something is going right.

And as we swing in the hammock together and watch the clouds move through the blue sky on your seventh birthday at the Antelope Ranch, my chest tightens with love this time and I know it is all passing so quickly.  And you know that I love you.

Mommy