Tonight, I started making dinner while listening to Pride and Prejudice again. I own it so if I happen to be between books on CD, it’s the default.

Out of my distracted peripheral vision, I saw Ingrid antagonize her little sister, who just wanted to play with a pretty pony she bought at the store today. Against my better judgment, I allowed Dagne to buy a ridiculous, affronting, hot pink pony with her money. Dagne was lost in admiration of the sparkly mane of her gaudy toy, wondering if she was real yet, and galloping her across the dining room table. Ingrid was perhaps a little jealous — I couldn’t tell if she wanted the pink pony or Dagne’s attention.

I verbally cuffed her for being annoying and in a second she bellied up to the table to accost, I mean interact with, me.

“Can I help you cook?” she asked.

I flipped off the CD and answered in the affirmative. I was assembling a cobb salad, trying to use up the hard-boiled eggs and leftover ham from Easter, while being kind to our digestive systems after overloading them the day before.

“I like to help cook. I helped Daddy cook the taco salad last time,” she said.

I smiled and nodded, washed the lettuce and handed the leaves to her to break into bits in the large bowl.

“Do you know why I like to make salad?” she asked. Without waiting for an answer, she continued, “because I get to rip things up and not get in trouble,” she said, followed by a gremlin’s giggle.

This made me laugh and I kissed her on her forehead. We happily ripped, chopped, sliced and diced together in silence for a moment. Then, she started to chatter incessantly about reading Treasure Island and a game on her Ipod and something funny Dagne did and …. chitter chatter, chitter chatter, chitter chatter.

Somewhere in the middle of it I realized that her chattering was an odd occurrence. I couldn’t put my finger on it. What was different? Why was that deja vu feeling spreading over me?

She’s my independent one — she’s got it all figured out. She doesn’t request hugs. She’s got her backpack packed, her guitar practiced, her homework done, and is engrossed in her own private world most times. She doesn’t glance around for approval, rarely asks advice, only asks the essential, clarifying questions, and … if she wants something, asks directly for it repeatedly until she gets it.

So I beg forgiveness that I hadn’t realized she’d practically disappeared these past few months. It wasn’t until she chatted so freely that I noticed she’s been gone for a long time.

Ingrid had woken up.

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