"Mama? I thought about it all day. I want to go to Full House with you tonight and skip gymnastics."
"Yes, because gymnastics is one day a WEEK and Full House is one day a YEAR. It's important."
"Sold. Go get your happy clothes on, little mama, let's roll."
And off we go. To Abby's Full House or Open House as those administrators like to call it. We arrive a bit late on purpose to miss the general meeting. Neither of us are interested in joining the PTA or sitting in cafeteria seats.
Full House is no misnomer as the halls are pulsing with parents in khaki pants, belted dresses, and scrubs. (I miss wearing scrubs to places where nobody knows if you are just getting home from your residency, the ER, the OR, or the kennel. Oh, the mystery.) Immediately, I withdraw from the crowd in front of us. Abby pulls me onward, her tiny hand in mine.
"Mama, C'MON! We'll be late!"
Her confident presence fuels me to motor not only into the throng of people, but through it. We come out the other side a smiling semi-circle, attached at the palms.
As we enter the classroom, Abby's teacher points to her, winks, then kneels down to hug a little boy showing off his herringbone jelly necklace. She makes a big fuss and all I can see are her eyes, blue as daytime, and her pink painted toes. She is a magnet for the children. Before we make it to Abby's desk, I count four kindergartners tugging at the teacher's blouse, excited to see her after-hours and to show them something from their very own home.
Abby's major modus operandi is strictly to stick with the program. She has an agenda and follow it we must, leaving no cubby unturned and no folded paper house untouched.
Proudly and reverently, she walks me to each corner of her classroom. "This is where we nap, Mama. But I don't really nap. I might close my eyes but I don't really nap, I don't think, please and thank you."
Moms and Dads are holding Chicka Chicka Boom Boom charts. Some are pointing to cut-out pictures of their own children on the wall. Most are making the exaggerated, "Oh my!" face so their children will know their art is not going under-appreciated. We are all walking slowly. But I notice something. The other children are running around the classroom, to each other and to their beloved teacher.
All the children are untethered from their parents except mine.
Worried, I'm holding on too tightly and of course, ruining my daugther's chances at a successful future and marriage, I give slack in our hand and let my Abby go.
"Mama, I have to show you the HALLWAY!!" She is already moving as she gobbles up my palm in hers once again. Like a silent wish being answered, it is her doing, not mine.
Again, we weave in and out of people clusters like two coils of one busy DNA.
This tiny hand of hers in mine is everything in the world right now. I can't make small talk, parent-teacher niceties, bend down to admire a little friend. My girl has my hand in hers almost on accident as though it's the most natural thing in the world, to connect herself to me -voluntarily- because she wants to. Not because she needs to.
It's more than wanting to show me the hallway. (The HALLWAY.) It's more than attending her very first Full House.
It's a connection. A connection that will be paraded through crowds, schools, projects, arguments, boyfriends, girlfriends, sleepovers, dances, graduations, and time. A connection that will sometimes disconnet, momentarily, but always find its way back again. A connection that I believed was one-sided: me holding on to her for dear life.
All these years, I've been so worried about what happens when I let go.
Hive Update: Didn't mean to leave you all hanging about Abby's hives. After she finished the cocktail of medicine her doctor put her on, she is all better. No hives, no fever, no more mystery virus that caused them in the first place. The ER doctor (yes, Dr. McSteamy) warned me that it will come back when I least expect it. He's a realist, after all, just like an imaginary boyfriend should be.