That is to say, she's never just walked. When going from Point A to Point B, she doesn't merely put one foot in front of the other.
She skips. She spins. She leaps. She gamboles, shimmies, sidesteps, saunters, wheels, hops.
She doesn't walk. She dances. Ever since she was able to stand on two tiny, plump legs, this has been true. I don't think I've ever seen her simply walk anywhere.
Example: For the last four years when I would drop her off in front of her school, the Mini-Pirate and I had a ritual. I'd stop the car, she'd unbuckle herself, lean forward as I leaned back, and she'd kiss the back of my bald head.
"Ouch!" She'd say every time. "Your bald head just shocked me!" And we'd laugh.
Then I'd try to impress upon her some nugget of advice, some little tip about whatever it was we'd been talking about lately: Remember to be a listener. Treat other kids the way you want to be treated. Stand up for yourself when you need to. Remember that your teacher is only trying to help you. Think about the tone of your voice when you talk. Count to ten when you feel frustrated. Just a last minute review, my way of trying to say, "Let's be careful out there," before she would head out into the world.
Then she'd get out of the car, hauling her gigantic pink backpack behind her, stand on the sidewalk as she got her arms through the straps, turn and wave at me, and then off she'd go, heading towards school.
Never just walking. Skipping. Always skipping. Even on days when she was in a bad mood, days when she was worried about a teacher, or a project, or recess politics. She would always skip. She couldn't help herself.
Monday was her last day of fourth grade. Big school-wide pizza party, games, fun stuff all designed to say Happy Summer.
Two days earlier, Saucy and I sat her down and told her, as gently as possible, that we are not going to be married anymore.
It was awful. So awful I won't be writing about the details here. For now, I'll just say that we rehearsed the conversation very carefully, consulted with a family therapist beforehand, made sure she knew there is no Bad Guy in the situation, and then were by her side for the rest of the weekend as she wrestled with the hardest emotions she'd ever had to deal with, at age nine: anger, sadness, desolation, rage, depression, confusion.
It was a long and painful weekend, but it had to happen. Our daughter can't start the healing and rebuilding parts of the process until the horrible parts happen first. Still. Worst experience ever.
We didn't know if she would want to go to school on Monday for the big end-of-the-year party. Saucy and I were ready to stay home with her and just hang out, talk, let her continue to vent all of her frustrations if that's what was necessary. But when Monday morning arrived, our Mini-Pirate got up, had breakfast, and got dressed, preparing for school. Saucy and I looked at each other over Mini-P's head, silently agreeing that if she wanted to go, then so be it.
I drove her to school that morning, glancing back at her in the rear view mirror all the way. She was quiet. All I could do was drive, and worry.
We pulled up to the drop-off point, and she unbuckled her seatbelt. She leaned forward, and I leaned back. She kissed my bald head, wordlessly. She climbed out of the car, and pulled her backpack onto her shoulders. We waved to each other. I watched as she walked up the sidewalk.
Halfway up to the school gate, I saw her pick up her feet. And skip. Only for a few steps. Halfheartedly. But she really tried.
(P.S. Dear Loyal Crew Members: This blog will return to form soon, I promise. Thanks to those readers who have emailed, showing concern about my absence. I miss blogging. I miss writing on my site, I miss the sites that I used to visit, I miss interacting with you guys. I'll be cranking this site up again on a regular basis. And not with sad stuff, either. I really do have a lot to tell you. My students this Spring? HOLY GOD, YE CATS. They gave me some great stories. I kept track. And will absolutely share. Remind me to tell you about the kid who blamed his late paper on his roommate's malfunctioning bong.)