I was watching Isabella and her cousin Mathew, as they were playing outside. Mathew was swinging on the swing set and Isabella was running through the soft, green grass, chasing after some butterflies that had caught her attention. She began to run blindly towards Mathew as he was swinging. I was about ready to shout for her to watch out, so she wouldn't get knocked over, but suddenly, she stopped. She then smiled, said “Thank you daddy,” and continued on, chasing the butterflies. As I exhaled a sigh of relief, I couldn’t help but to have the feelings of loneliness wash over me.
Two days later, on a gorgeous, sunny afternoon, as I was obligated to walk through the aisles of the grocery store, a sudden aroma of the chicken frying in the oven hit my nose. It reminded me how hungry I was, from not eating lunch, because my mind was drifting off to somewhere else. As I stood, waiting in line at the deli counter, I noticed a familiar face before me. It was the mother of a child in Isabella’s Kindergarten class. I overheard her talking to her son, who was holding on to the cart, telling her what seemed to be a very intriguing story. I couldn’t help but to eavesdrop. He was speaking so rudely of a little girl, who he said has an imaginary friend, and how ridiculous it is for her to be so “silly.” I felt myself getting upset with this boy for speaking in such a way about another child, especially as I noticed he was talking about my sweet Isabella. I wanted to hear what he had to say but did not want to be seen, so I slowly crept over to the end of a nearby aisle. I was clever enough to not be spotted, as he continued his story. I bit my tongue as I listened intently to this boy talking so negatively about my daughter, but I knew that if I stopped his conversation with his mother, who seemed confused with his story, I would not know what he and possibly other children might be saying about my sweet girl. He told his mother, “Mom, it just so weird! She talk like she talking to me or some udder person, but no one on side a her!” It was then that I knew what he was talking about but didn’t have the strength within me or the time to explain the situation this boy spoke of. Quite frankly, I think it was rude for this little brat to be talking about my daughter, whom he hardly even knows, in that way. If we lived in this small, gossipy town for the full five years my sweet girl has been on this earth, maybe then this boy would be having a different conversation with his unknowing mother. As I stood in yet another line, waiting to check out, I overheard a different, more heart-warming tale being told. It was that boy's mother scolding her child, quite loudly, that it’s not nice to talk about people or to pass judgement. She told him she’s going to get in touch with Isabella’s mother so they can play together one day and he then can talk to her and see who she talks to all of the time.
On my drive home, while listening to the stereo play the song my husband and I first danced to as husband and wife, I laughed to myself because I could have told the woman in line, “I am Isabella’s mother. What can I do for you?” Instead, I thought I would let them work harder to find the truth to Isabella’s story. As I placed the last bit of what felt like a never ending mess of groceries away, the phone rang. When I answered the phone, I heard a voice say, “Hello, I hope you don’t mind but my son, Jax, is in your daughter's class.” As I smirked to myself, I replied, “Oh, is everything okay, did Isabella do something wrong to your son?” To which this woman replied, “Goodness no, nothing at all, but I was just thinking that since you're new to the area, maybe we could get our children together for a play-date and you and I could get to know one another.” This was quite nice as I do not know many of the people in town. So, I answered, “Yes, I think that sounds like a nice idea, thank you.” Our conversation went on for a few minutes, during which I found out that Jax had a checkup appointment that day at the doctor's, so that’s why he wasn’t in school with Isabella and the rest of their class. So, we decided that tonight would be a good time to get the children together to play and to get to know one another.
It was a nice night to grill and roast the new bag of marshmallows over an open fire. Jax, his mom, Heather, and her husband, Joe, were punctual, as they rang our doorbell at 6:00. Jax seemed different this time, not as chatty, and did not want to come out from behind his mother. To help him become more comfortable, I said to Isabella, “Honey, why don’t you take Jax outside and you two can find some fun game to play together.” Isabella reached her little hand out to Jax and asked, “You wanna come with me? We can play hide a go seek or do a wild animal search?” Jax looked at his mother with a sort of mean face, then put his head down and said, “Sure, why not.”
The children then went out in the backyard and not long after, we heard some giggling and some back and forth of, “Gotcha!,” “No you didn’t!,” and “You better get faster or I’m gonna get you!” I was thinking the children were able to adapt to one another with a little more ease than the adults. We figured it out though and soon realized that Heather and I have many things in common. Such as a love for reading and dancing, which we plan to do together sometime in the near future. Joe seemed a little out of sorts though. He kept tugging at his pants leg, coughing, and looking around the house. I think I know what he was thinking, but for some reason, didn’t say anything.
After some laughing and story telling between the parents, Isabella and Jax came running onto the patio, feet pounding ever so loudly off of the hollow, wooden deck, laughing and having so much fun. Just then, Isabella was looking at Jax, who was behind her, as she was running. She was getting awfully close to the grill, which was in the middle of the patio. As all three adults jumped out of their seats, Isabella stopped suddenly. After a few seconds, she giggled and said, “Thank you, daddy! You saved me, again!” As the words were falling out past her little teeth, I looked at Heather, Joe, and Jax. Before I could speak, Jax yelled, “Who are you talking to?! I don’t see your dad anywhere and I not see him since I been here.” Isabella just smiled, and she said, “Duh! you can’t see my daddy. That’s because I am the only one who can.” Of course, everyone but I, had this bewildered look on their faces. Again, before my brain could figure out how and what to say, as I wanted to be gentle with my words for Isabella, she said, “My daddy is my angel. He comes and visits me when he can, but is always watching me.” As I sat down on the chair, I called Isabella over. She placed herself on my lap, and together, we explained how her father is no longer walking this earth beside us, but rather, watching from above. He passed away protecting us. We were fortunate though, it was not while he was in Afghanistan. When he came home, we were a family again, if even for a short period, until the PTSD took him away. This happened just the year before we moved to this town. As we spoke, Jax and his family listened intently. Heather seemed to be doing her best at holding back the tears as she realized the story her son told her earlier that day. After a few moments of silence, Jax said, “Do you think he could say hello to my doggy? He died just a bit ago and I miss him.” Isabella walked over to him, gave him a big, tight squeezing hug and just whispered, “He would love to.”