Lately I've been a borrower of little daughters. Not for their generally-associated qualities, which, of course, are bunk—they are bruisers, couch-leapers, squirt-gun attackers, stick-finders, creek-dousers, breakfast-thieves, and sneaky little foxes. But there are some things I can do for them that I've never been able to do for my sons.
May-May (that's Marianne). C'mere.
Gimme your fingertips.
Ya. She sticks them out.
What colours do you want?
All of 'em. Dis one dis one dat one.
I paint her nails. Pink, orange, pink. Then her toes. We take a photo and send it to her mom. We are both satisfied. Mhmm yup. Good.
A few days later, Gwen and Maeve are here. Gwen has never been in my house before, so I don't know what makes her do it—spidey-sense?—she marches right over to the old captain's chest in the living room and shoves up the lid like the queen bee. It's like she knew: that's my tickle trunk.
Everything came out, stuff I've been collecting for years. Not one boa but two. Not one gypsy skirt but two. A soft pink 1980s prom dress. A witch hat. A woodland fairy, a hippie, a go-go girl. A disco-dancing alien witch. A woodland-fairy flapper. They dress up all day long, emerging from the exploded trunk to the fire pit for a parade on every costume change. Their moms are drinking beer and sitting with feet curled up underneath legs. The girls twirl in the sun and spray reflected rainbow glitter light through the woods.
They are, at four, pretty much the same as I am at forty. Scruffy and all about the tights and the bobbles on the ends of their braids. I wore this 'coz it's got dots on it. They squeal when they pull out the good stuff. So do I. They get real quiet when embroiled in the business of dressup. So do I.
The older kids are in the sprinkler playing Cops And Robbers, but not Ben. At first he is shy but digs in the trunk. He comes to me and pulls me down to whisper. This. And this. And this. I will be a clown.
There's all kinds of deadfall on the ground after the hurricane. I've made piles of mess for burning, and they hop over it with little pointed toes. Limbs and twigs yank on the bottom of skirts and they don't notice. It suits, somehow. They are wild. We ooooh, and we aaahhh.