On Thursday, I found myself standing in front of a rack of shiny, plastic playground balls at Target, vision blurred and nose stinging with oncoming tears.
Because my girls are 19 and 17 years old, and it’s been so long since the three of us stood together at that rack, trying to figure out how to get the blue one from the middle of the pile. “Lift me through the wire, Momma! I’ll go in and get it!”
When my first marriage unraveled, the girls and I moved into a two-bedroom apartment on the south side of town. We scored a first-floor unit with a sliding glass door that opened onto a small patio and a wide, perfect-for-chalk sidewalk. Beyond that, we had a barefoot-worthy swath of grass dotted with pine trees—perfect for chasing ladybugs and fireflies. Em and Bekah each had her own plastic ball—sticky in one spot from pricetag residue, sufficiently bouncy so as to evoke shrieks of laughter, and lightweight enough that the tiniest breeze would send them flying across the field.
They were 4 and 2 years old when we settled into our new place. Our new normal. They were towheads then, Emily with a long ponytail and Bekah with a sassy swing bob. They wore sparkly, velcro tennies that lit up with every leap and stomp. They were equally comfortable with dolls and dump trucks. They were precocious. Resilient. Breathtaking. As they are now.
In the middle of a huge mess—one of the worst young children can experience—those plastic playground balls allowed my girls to burst into sun-soaked afternoons and forget the drama of “mommy’s house/daddy’s house”—even if only for a few minutes.
Now, fifteen years past that apartment, I’m constantly surprised by and profoundly grateful for how things turned out. And if you’d been standing next to me as I stood in Target’s toy department on Thursday, you would’ve heard me whisper, “Thank you.”