Ellie came strolling in. "Would you like some cantaloupe?" I asked all Casual-Like and Not In The Slightest Bit Hysterical.
"Yuck. I hate cantaloupe. I don't like any kind of melon."
Oh my God - how could I have forgotten that? The kid freaking HATES melons. Even watermelon! Who the hell hates watermelon? It's not normal. It's unAmerican. It's ridiculous. "Jesus! You're incorrigible!" I thought to myself. "I mean....really really incorrigible!! I honestly don't know how we've kept you around this long!! Should have gotten rid of you YEARS AGO...." I made a mental list of all of her irritating qualities and imperfections...working hard at it and hoping to turn around and look at her and be able to say, "Disgusting!! We should just....I don't know....TAKE YOU TO COLLEGE NOW."
Of course, it didn't work. I turned around and looked at her and melted into a puddle at her adorableness.
We took photos of everyone hugging her goodbye. Here she is with her good friend Hannah - who stayed behind to man the fort with my other kids, which was no small or easy task. Joel is in the background trying to make a stupid face because he likes to ruin landmark family pictures.
And here she is with The Boyfriend and she looks like she might cry but really she's trying not to laugh because I'm fussing at her dad who is in the background making a stupid face because he likes to ruin landmark family pictures.
"Whatever," he said. This is what he says lately. It's endearing.
"No, really. I'm actually LEAVING."
"I mean, it's not like when I go away for a week or two....I'm NEVER COMING BACK TO LIVE HERE EVER EVER AGAIN."
The statement didn't have the desired effect for Jasper but it did cheer Ellie up a bit. And actually, Jasper will miss her when he figures out he can't see her whenever he wants. He's seven but since he's not in school he's got a few little holes here and there in his General Understanding of Things. We haven't stressed the whole Time Goes This Way idea with him. He still regularly asks me to check back with him about this or that on the day after yesterday. Technically, according to most people, the day after yesterday is Today. For Jasper it simply means Go Away Now and Bother Me With This Another Time. You'd think the NEVER COMING BACK TO LIVE HERE EVER EVER AGAIN would have resonated with him, but honestly, people around here make that threat all the time.
Jasper refused to pose for a picture with his sister. He hid behind the chair. Hiding behind the chair means I'm upset and you can't see me. So I suspect he got the gist of the goings-on after all.
Ellie has traveled a lot and I imagine it will take a couple of weeks before her brothers and sister really get it that they're not going to see her for several months. Until then, it is likely to be business as usual for them.
The first night in the hotel, Ellie and I played Boggle. We love that game. And there's nobody else in the house for us to play it with because....how can I say this nicely?....they can't keep up. I'm not sure I'm all that much of a challenge for Ellie - but I'm better than a brother who takes the entire minute to come up with a three-letter word that turns out to be misspelled. I've never actually beat her.
"We'll play til 100," she said all smug-like. That's right...be all smug and obnoxious like that and maybe I'll miss you less when you're gone...
It was really really really close. I thought I might actually win. It was going to be my last chance for awhile, after all. We feverishly searched for words while the little minute-glass wound down. Ellie likes to write Really Loudly with her little pencil because she thinks it intimidates me. Also? We both write down nonsense words on the off-chance that the other person has written the same nonsense word and what it if turns out not to be a nonsense word? So there is a lot of Pig Latin-ish words in our lists which we happily sacrifice as long as the other person sacrifices her's as well. I'm telling you, there is strategy involved in Boggle.
I had an awesome last round...thought maybe I'd finally done it....finally beaten the kid.
"Aha!" I shouted. "100! I have 100 points! I win I win I win I win I win!!!"
She just looked at me quietly. And then she said, "I have 101. Goodnight." She turned out the lamp and rolled over.
"Fine," I muttered. "Tomorrow I'm just going to leave that smug condescending smarter-than-everyone-else little attitude in a nasty old dorm room...boy will THAT feel good goshdarnit so THERE." Then I rolled over and weeped my sad little self to sleep.
I didn't sleep too well that night because of the drunken Swedish boys in the hall. They were blond and loud and very obnoxious. I HATE it when there are noisy people in the hallways of hotels slamming doors and talking loudly all night. Sometimes I will hold my breath in order to hear it better so I can be more properly outraged. Which is probably why I dreamed about loud drunken Swedish boys in the hall. That's right, there weren't really drunken Swedish boys in the hall. But I dreamed that there were which was just as bad...actually worse. I woke up all irritated about the Swedish boys and got myself a bit of water before heading back to bed for Round Two of Weird Dreaming.
I dreamed I'd given birth to a perfect baby. She was all adorable and the word perfect kept coming up again and again when people looked at her and I was all impressed with myself for having had such a perfect baby. Full of pride! Then I left her in a parking lot. It was an accident, of course, and upon realizing my mistake I rushed back to the parking lot hysterically.....shouting to everyone, "Have you seen my perfect baby? Remember the one? You were all so impressed with her and I drove off and left her in the parking lot!"
And Everybody pointed to the dark scary woods and said they thought they'd seen her head off that way. They acted as if this were the most natural thing in the world and weren't concerned about it in the slightest. I took off for the dark scary woods. "Where's my baby?" I screamed repeatedly. Finally, I saw something disappear around a tree trunk. The Other People were around me and calmly commenting that they'd also seen her disappear around the tree trunk. "Look at her go!" they said in very pleased tones.
"What? Where?" I asked. I looked but could see only darkness. I took off running. Finally, I came to a little red fox sitting peacefully licking its paws.
"There she is," said one of The Other People, pointing at the fox.
"What? That's not my perfect baby!" I said. "That's a FOX!"
The fox walked right up to me and I thought I saw a little smug glint in its eye. It looked vaguely familiar.
I picked it up, and it started struggling to get away.
"Really?" I said to The Other People. "This is my perfect baby? How did this happen? She's turned into something else entirely and all I did was leave her momentarily in the parking lot when I got all busy doing other things..."
"Yeah. They do that," somebody said. "She's a cute little fox. You should be quite proud."
The little fox wriggled free from my grasp and jumped down. She took off in a blurry flash....bushy little tail disappearing through the woods.
"Look at her go!" The Other People said. "She's really fast!"
I woke up missing the hell out of the nonexistent noisy Swedish boys and their lack of symbolic baggage. Ellie woke up, too. She hadn't grown two more legs or a tail, but I knew she was about to run off anyway.
The next few days were spent shopping for last minute dorm items (her room is tiny and old, old, old....she loves it), and taking care of things like registering, textbooks, obtaining studio keys, dropping one class and picking up a harpsichord class...figuring out how to gain access to the scholarship money...how to use the meal plan. She loved all of it (except orientation which she deemed a complete waste of her time). She familiarized herself with the Steinways in the practice rooms. We took her to dinner, took her to a movie, and she insisted on sleeping in her dorm room every night rather than in a nice hotel with us. On her first morning she awoke to a lone tuba...the second morning it was drums. She's Home.
"Hey, can you drop me off at the practice rooms on your way out of here?" she asked. On your way out of here....now please.
"Sure," we said. Like we were leaving anyway.
When we got in front of the practice building there was a line of cars behind us. She couldn't get the van door open - it got stuck and freaked out the way those computerized automatic doors do when you jump the gun and yank on them too soon - something Ellie always does. She continued to struggle while the horns honked and her father lectured about proper van-door-protocol. I sat quietly, listening to the last echo of Normal.
When she finally managed to extricate herself from the vehicle, she sighed and stomped off down the sidewalk. She didn't look back and the last thing I heard her mumble was Crap!
Jeff pulled away muttering obscenities about impatient honkers. I watched out the window as her tail disapeared around the trunk of a tree...Look at her go....that was really fast.