Lucky Stars

Mercury is in retrograde. I knew it. My friend Betsy confirmed it last week, when I emailed her to ask. I talk to Betsy most often when things are going wrong, only because she’s the only person I know who knows when Mercury is in retrograde. I have no idea what that phrase means, which is why I keep repeating it mindlessly. (And mindnumbingly.) I just know that when a series of bad things happens (big or small, usually a combination) I ask Betsy, and sure enough, M is in R.

The only other astronomical (or is astrological? is astronomical even a word, aside from meaning huge?) phrase I know is “When the moon is in the 7th house and Jupiter’s aligned with Mars,” but since that’s part of the first line of an upbeat song from the Hair soundtrack, I’m guessing that’s a sign of good, not bad.

I would Google the whole M in R thing, but I don’t have time, because, like I said, so many bad things have happened, big and small, in the past week.

I won’t categorize them, but one of the worst is that Abbie is sick.

Abbie is the rock star of our extended family, the sweetest 13 year old girl you’ll ever meet. (My old friend, her mother Trish, begs to differ, calling her Princess Hormone — but I’ve yet to see a sign. I know I reserved my pubescent moods for my own mother, so I believe Trish.) The sweetest, and the most maternal. She comes by it honestly. Trish’s mother confirms that Trish was born to mother; Abbie’s the same. And so it’s no surprise that many of my kids’ earliest baby pictures were taken on Abbie’s skinny lap. She’s the Pied Piper. My kids will follow her anywhere, fight over her, profess their love for her incessantly.

Which is why our house was quiet this weekend, after the news that Abbie won’t be staying with us for the next week while Trish is out of town. It’s nothing too serious, but serious enough to quash the plan. I walked by Sophie’s bedroom door this morning and noticed Abbie’s carefully cursived “Happy Birthday” still left on the chalkboard from the last time she was over, and got sad.

Still, she’s around. Abbie’s not slumber partying on the living room floor this week, but she did pop up yesterday afternoon — in the form of Annabelle.

Lately, Annabelle and Sophie have actually been spotted playing together. There are still squabbles in the bathtub (close quarters) and today someone (i’m not sure which girl) let out a wail in a pitch normally reserved for a true act of torture when Sophie disturbed Annabelle’s pile of Neopet trading cards. But for whole minutes at a stretch, these two will disappear into Annabelle’s room and entertain themselves and one another. A small miracle. I don’t even mind cleaning up the mess.

A couple times, eavesdropping on a play session, I’ve realized that Annabelle is reminding me of someone — but I couldn’t put my finger on it til yesterday afternoon. We were at my sister in law’s house for dinner, and the girls were bored. They’d played with both the pet chihuahua and the pet boa constrictor (I pretended to make an important call outside for the latter; I don’t want the girls to be scared of snakes, but there’s no freaking way I’m going to be in the same room as one!) and Sophie had discovered that Aunt Carolyn does not own any Elmo videos.  The meatloaf was gone and it wasn’t time for chocolate cake, and the adults were talking in that annoying adult way.

I looked over and noticed the girls together on the floor, and heard a familiar song. Annabelle was on her back, Sophie straddling her, and AB was singing, “This is the way the lady rides….This is the way the cowboy rides…..This is the way the farmer rides…..” and bouncing Sophie gently or faster, depending on the character. They were both cracking up. 

Suddenly I realized who Annabelle’s been reminding me of: Abbie. Without realizing it, I’m quite sure, Abbie has taught Annabelle how to be a big sister. Funny, since Abbie’s the younger of Trish’s two. But it’s all there: the patience, the sweetness, the humor, the grace.

In that small moment, I forgot all about the bad week, and thanked my lucky stars.


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