“You’re a masterpiece that all creation quietly applauds. And you’re covered with the fingerprints of God…”
~Steven Curtis Chapman
It’s Friday and Hope has a dance class. Rhema gets to tag along because there’s no school that day.
We’re the first to arrive and Hope’s dance instructor comes over and greets Rhema,
“Hi, you must be Hope’s big sister!”
Silence. Nothing. Rhema stares away blankly.
Hope, always one to fill the silence, declares,
“That’s my sister Rhema!!!”
“Oh!” replies her teacher, leaning over. “How old are you, Rhema?”
“Do you like to dance?”
My hands are firmly on Rhema’s shoulders, and she begins to fidget.
The teacher tries again, “Do you like to dance?”
We stand there a moment longer, and although I’ve been in this situation many, many times before, I still wonder how best to handle it.
What do I say? Do I give her the long or short version? Do I bother to explain at all? I resist explaining – sometimes it feels like I’m making excuses or apologizing for Rhema. If I offered an explanation with every awkward public encounter I’d sound like a broken record in no time.
Do I just answer for Rhema? Yes, she likes to dance. To her own beat.
Do I tell her that when Rhema was three years old – when the pain of it was all too fresh – I would come to the Y and watch the little girls her age dressed in their leotards and tutus prancing around the studio and their mothers talking casually, beaming proudly, snapping pictures. And I felt so sad that my girl and I weren’t in that club. (Kind of silly because I never needed Rhema to be a ballerina. She’s definitely more of an extreme sports-rock-climbing-bungee-jumping kind of girl.) It’s just because I couldn’t have it that I suddenly wanted it. And now, look, God has given me Hope, a fairy-princess who oozes girly-girlness and positively lives for dance class. And on Fridays when Rhema is normally in school, I watch Hope in her leotard and tutu prancing around the studio. And I talk casually, beam proudly and snap pictures. As if we are typical, as if I’m in that club. Even though I’m not. Because when another Mom remarks, “Hope is so verbal!”, she cannot possibly know what that means to me and that I had absolutely nothing to do with it. Because when I hear others comparing the milestones their babes in arms have reached, I still feel anxious.
The teacher looks up at me with a questioning look.
This time, I just smile.
Another student comes in and while I’m sliding on Hope’s ballet slippers, the little girl sweetly stands next to Rhema. She seems to be impressed because Rhema is bigger, older, taller.
“What’s your name?” she whispers.
Rhema is humming, Ee oooh. Eeeee oooh.
“What’s your name?” the girl says louder. “Hello? Hello???”
I stand up. “Her name is Rhema. She’s still learning how to talk,” I say brightly.
“She has awe-tisms!” Hope supplies. We just attended the Walk last weekend and there were bouncy castles and mazes and a horse and Hope had a blast and she LOVES her sister fiercely and so “awe-tisms” is pretty darn cool.
The girls run off and class begins.
As I’m wondering what Rhema and I will do for the next 45 minutes, she sees a baby being lifted out of a car seat and rushes over as if she’s been waiting for a seat all day. She settles her 6 year-old body into the baby’s car seat and tries to buckle up. No doubt Dora the Explorer is running through her head: Seatbelts! So we can be safe!
Love. Oh, how I love my girl. I love her ways.
I know what we’ll be doing for the next 45 minutes. No apologies, no excuses…
…we’ll be talking about her awe-tisms.
Addendum: Welllll, after a rough morning which included her eating a suppository for breakfast, I must say there are times when I’m not loving her ways. Thanks Rhema, for keepin’ it real. I *think* she has a good, logical reason in her mind for everything she does (even if I don’t get it), and I do love that.