She’s tiny for 2 years old, on the petite side with delicate features and a voice like the whisper of a summer breeze.
She’s tiny but tough. You have to be when you’re the youngest of four.
Mom and Dad are gone today. They left while she was sleeping, just after midnight. They’ve gone to the hospital for the delivery of baby No. 5.
The family lives on the top floor of a Chicago Greystone more than 100 years old. The old house has huge windows with beautiful wood molding and ledges so wide an adult can sit on them.
She is curled up in one of the windows. She gingerly climbed over the radiator, which never gets more than a middling sort of warm, took a seat on a window ledge and wrapped her little arms around her little legs, which are pulled up to her chin.
She’s watching the action on the street below—cars passing, motorists parking, people walking briskly with morning coffee in one hand and cell phones in the other. Delivery trucks zip by and a mail carrier pushes his canvas-like wheelbarrow along the sidewalk.
Meanwhile, her next-in-line brother has gotten out a microscope. He’s peering at slides, alternating looking with his right eye, squinting with his left, looking with his left, squinting with his right.
Her next older brother is tinkering with squishy circuits, a conductive play dough in which he arranges electrical circuits and fires up tiny lightbulbs.
Her big sister just brought up a load of a laundry from the cellar, three flights of rickety stairs down. Now she’s doing a word search, working on earning a paleontologist badge from the National Parks Service.
Of course, it’s not nearly as tranquil as it sounds. Skirmishes intermittently erupt and they all take turns testing Grandma and Grandpa’s limits and response times. All except the little one.
Late afternoon, they are lined up on the sofa watching an animal show. From a distance it looks like the little one’s eyes are glistening. Tears are welling.
I scoop her up and ask what’s wrong. She looks in my eyes with a stiff upper lip and whispers, “Momma.”
Tears tumble down her soft cheeks.
I hold her and soon she’s fine.
But it’s not the dazzling lights holding her gaze. She’s looking hard at each car, each passerby. She’s looking for Momma.
When I pick her up to put her to bed, she lays her head on my shoulder, whispers “Momma,” and starts to sob. Tears soak my neck.
I rock her awhile and sing a lullaby over and over. I lie down next to her, my arm wrapped around her small body. When she’s finally asleep, I pull my arm away and wrap her sister’s arm around her.
She’ll be at the window again in the morning, looking for the one who makes her feel completely safe and protected, the one who makes her eyes dance and her entire being shine.
Oh, that every child would know the warmth and strength of a loving momma.