For weeks Hannah has been asking begging for a sleepover at Nanny and Grampy’s house. She’s been talking about toenail painting, and pancake making. She was excited for the special attention, the focus 100% on her, the cozy double bed. A day spent reading different books, playing with different toys, swimming and the special grandparent love.
Finally, after two cancellations because of her case of strep and Grampy’s bad luck catching Luke’s flu… the long awaited day had arrived. She packed hours before they were to pick her up. Her bag was filled with bathing suits, snow gear, fancy dinner clothes and toys. She was prepared to wake early and brought crayons and paper to fill her time before she could climb into her grandparent’s bed for early morning cuddles. After 7 days of enduring all the attention being showered on her sick little brother, she was ready, more than ready, for her little getaway.
At 4:00 in the afternoon, she waved goodbye from Nanny’s car window and they drove away. I scooped still sick Luke in my still sick arms and sat quietly on the couch, happy that she would get the attention she needed and I would get a small break myself.
At 6:00 the phone rang. The caller ID signified it was my parent’s house. I smiled excited to hear my little girl’s voice tell me what she was had helped Nanny make for dinner or what adventure she had already taken. “Hi Mommy!” she excitedly peeped over the line.
“HI SWEETIE!” I bubbled.
“Mommy, I miss you a little bit.” I heard her voice crack and could almost feel the tear drip onto my hand that held the phone. I couldn’t believe it.
“That’s ok to miss me a little Hannah but I’m sure you’re having so much fun! There’s no reason to be sad. You’ve been so excited for this, counting the minutes, so enjoy it!” I tried to keep my voice calm and even… not too empathetic or preachy.
“But, But Mommy. I really do miss you. I’m sad all of a sudden.”
As surprised as I was to hear these words come from her, it brought me back 30 or so years and I choked back my own cry. You see, I never could stay away from home. As much as I wanted to have sleep over, as much as they always seemed like such a good idea, there never was a night in my childhood that I didn’t call home in the night and ask to be picked up. I recall being so sad at one sleepover that I threw up. I became dizzy with the sadness that overtook me. I don’t even know what it was that I missed so much. Maybe the warm hugs. Maybe the kiss goodnight. But more likely, it was the familiarity I missed. Or the unfamiliarity that made me sad. The unfamiliar smells. The routine tuck-in that I got each night. I think I was more nervous about something going wrong and not having the familiar securities to make it right.
At ten years old I was to spend a week at my grandmother’s beach house. The beach house that I spent weeks at each and every summer. THIS was to be a special week with just me and my grandmother. A week of swimming in the ocean, watching TV in my grandmother’s bed until late at night, having ice cream from the truck every day, going to the amusement park down the boardwalk as often as I wanted. I counted the minutes until this special week arrived. I had been counting the years ever since my older brother had spent this week alone with Gammy. But when it arrived, and I watched my parents drive away, down the street until I their car was just a spec in front of me… I started to cry. And there was no consoling me. My grandmother tried it all, but all I wanted to do was lay curled on my bed surrounded by my moms clothes. I wrapped her shirts around me, buried my face in the warmth and scents of her sweaters. It was pathetic. Really, it was. But I missed her.
And there was Hannah on the other end of the line. Missing me. And I knew JUST how she felt. It didn’t matter that her grandmother that she adores was sitting right beside her. It didn’t matter that all of her favorite activities were planned. She missed something. Something that the house 30 minutes away couldn’t give.
I calmed her down and blew her a kiss into the phone and asked to speak to my mom. She said that this sadness came out of nowhere. It was the sound of my voice that turned her mood. She assured me the sadness would be short lived and I hung up the phone.
The next morning, before any of the fun even had the chance to start my mom told me they were on their way home. Hannah was sick. Fever, cough, looking gray. She arrived home shortly after the phone call. She walked in, Ellie in hand, and collapsed into my arms. Even though she wouldn’t ever verbalize it, I knew she was thankful for the familiar. My arms. Her house. Her spot on the couch. Her bed. Because there she was at her grandparent’s house, not feeling quite right and not having her creature comforts there to make it right. My little girl fear of sleepovers came true for Hannah two nights ago. Being somewhere, no matter how comfortable, and having something go awry. A fever, a sore throat, a worry. And not having that “thing”, whatever it may be, there to set you straight.
I was glad actually that I now know she wasn’t feeling well the night she arrived at my parents and that was the reason for her sadness even if she didn’t realize it yet. I would hate for Hannah to have the same aversion to “being away” as I had growing up. The same loneliness, even when not alone, that I had when my parents left me.
But, I’d get it if she did.
I’m just happy a do-over sleepover is already in the works.