I got to talk with Elsa today. Before she left for Italy, I informed her that this experience is an education, that she needed to suck the marrow out of it, and not let any of it go wasted. It wasn’t long after talking with her that I regretted the choice of words I used. On the phone, she described the wild boars they almost hit going up to the villa, the topless lady at the pool, the men in speedos and the lifeguards at the beach that whistled appreciatively at her and Emily whenever they walked by. She related how a group of handsome, Italian teenage boys joined her and Emily for a game of volleyball, how they somehow understood each other even though the boys only knew a few words of English and the girls only knew a few words of Italian. Yeah, I bet, I think, sarcastically. At that age, who needs words?

I hope my advice to experience all she can doesn’t get taken too far. She is only 14. There’s plenty of time for romantic chances to be taken later. I worried briefly but then I reasoned with myself … she is with my sister and I think she’s too shy to be in much danger and too independent and smart to be taken unawares.

At this point, prayer is my only option, which I dive to each morning, showering her in love and protection. There is no hurry, I tell God. There is no need to force a bud into bloom. Let the sun and rain shower on her childhood. Let her remain closed up, tightly wrapped in petals, until the time is ripe. Keep her free from experiencing too much too soon. Do not awaken love until it so desires.

There is probably no need to worry. But time is flying faster and she needs me less and less and she’s moving up and out and her wings are bursting from her shoulders and I feel exultant and frightened and sorrowful all at once. I take a shivery breath that is an intersection of pride and crying.

Greta’s legs are finally growing longer to fit her feet which grew to my size overnight last year. I kept calling her a Dufflepud after those creatures in Chronicles of Narnia that just have one large foot that they use as canoes on the water. Now, she’s looking like a fawn on ice and her feet almost fit her. Her face has lost its baby fat. It won’t be long until …

but she’s still pretending and alternating between hanging out with mom and hanging out with the little ones, dancing between childhood and the grownup table. Please … don’t rush! Let her make the transition slowly and smoothly. Let her wander into adult conversations but always keep the playhouse in sight.

If there is a trump card for homeschooling, this is it. Childhood is not buried alive. Instead, it always has a placemat at the family table and is welcome anytime it shows its face. And it’s given opportunity to show up, unannounced, and isn’t scheduled into oblivion, or scorned into hiding, or pressured into disappearing. Let it be and childhood disappears of its own accord, slipping out unnoticed when it realizes it’s no longer needed.

As for the little ones, I’m still tickling them Good Morning. Ingrid disappeared as soon as she dressed to attempt new things on her bike. Dagne sat on her knees on the stool this morning, with her pink feet criss-crossed beneath her, pulling out all of the cooking utensils, the biscuit cutters, the measuring cups, the teaspoons and tablespoons, while I made a batch of apple Dutch Babies. Such a scene, with the clean wooden countertops, the piles of eggshells in the Pyrex glass, with the butter melting in the pan in the oven, with the pretty plates from Czechoslovakia, the slivers of lemon and lime, the powdered sugar in its crock and the bright spoon sticking out of it, and the little turned-up face playing happily with the cooking tools, is the essence of domestic felicity. Now, I am old and wise enough to know it won’t last, that everything must be treasured, that nothing must be forgotten, that each moment must have its press against the heart.

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