Somewhere in the midst of the "Little Engine That Could" (neither a favorite nor a good read-aloud -- no idea why she selected this one, spite I suppose) last night, while trying to spice up the story by seeing how many words Bella knew on any given page, Mr. ABF walked in and handed her a blue plastic Maddy bracelet.
Clearly, there had been some conversation which I was not privy to, but whatever, I hardly paused, trains kept rejecting the toys pleas for a tow, Bella attempted to put the band on her ankle, and then settled for her wrist.
She climbed into bed with the bracelet still on, and it suddenly hit me, What if she wants to wear this to school tomorrow?
If memory serves, only one parent in her class knows, and as of last Sunday, one knows that we had another child who died, but doesn't know the details. Or at least I hope that's what she gathered from my answering "Only Living" to her question of "Is she your only child?" (Now that I think about it, that answer is a bit wanting, for me. I really need something else.) It began to race through my imagination that Bella was going to walk into school this morning, and blow this whole thing open wide.
I decided I might like a bit of insight as to exactly how this was going to go down with her peeps in the morning.
"Do you know what that bracelet says?" I asked her.
"Maddy," she said quietly.
"Maddalena," I said gently, in what I hope was more of a reaffirming and not correcting tone of voice. "And her birthday."
There was some chatter of birthdays, and then I sprang another question, "And who is she?"
"Your Baby from last year."
Interesting. I actually found this response completely fascinating -- that somehow this whole ugly business was mine (and I'm assuming her father's) and not really hers. Was this some childlike detachment? Or do kids around a certain age just instinctively refer to siblings as "The Baby" (capital T)? I often wonder if she considers Maddy her sister.
"She was your sister, you know."
Shit, can't believe I said that. I was going to let it stop. I hate the "How many kids do you have?" question, and I have no idea what buzzes through her head when someone asks "Do you have any brothers or sisters?" No, wait, I do know -- she says "No." And I'm always completely fine with that answer. Of course she doesn't. What in hell was I doing? I really wanted to take that back.
"She died. I wish she didn't die. I miss her."
The last two sentences there were delivered with just a drop of that dramatic flair I hear when she says "I miss my Daddy," knowing full well he's just outside in the yard letting the dogs out. So I decided it was late, she was tired, and taking this somewhere I didn't want to go. I said nothing, scratched her back, and read one more story.
This morning the bracelet was still on through breakfast, on through getting dressed. I was actually starting to get a bit panicky, wondering if I should offer to keep it safe at home. Right before we left the house, I noticed it was missing. "Your bracelet?"
"I didn't want to wear it."
Flooded with relief, I tell you. Flooded.
But. It's very clear, that the truth will out, and soon. And the messenger will be a four-year-old, in all her brassy, straight-forward, articulate, malapropic, and often hilarious glory.