The day started off like any other. I heard the two little feet stomp down firmly on the floor and the ensuing conversation with Bear began, "Good Morning Bear! I love you!" Then the steps get faster and pick up speed until finally I open my eyes and find a smiling Bean at my bedside. She deftly hands one of the three princess dolls she's brought in and tells me "You can be Ariel. I'm going to be King Triton. But King Triton is a girl mermaid." Who knew that King Triton was transgender? We play for a few minutes before I negotiate her onto the potty. Then I quickly get her and myself dressed so that we can drive her dad to the train station.
We are never out of the house that early without something that we have to do. Without preschool, or gym class, or ballet, the whole day is ours and the weather is beautiful. We go to the local patisserie and Bean excitedly picks out her breakfast. She picks out a donut. I select a ham and cheese croissant and order a decaf latte. Bean finds us a table and carefully pulls her little body onto the big cafe chair. She has a big grin on her face waiting for her special breakfast. I sit down next to her and she attacks the donut. When she reaches the pastry cream filling, she is stunned. "Mama, there's frosting in here!" I just made her day, possibly her week. In these quiet moments of just us, I'm slightly melancholy, knowing that these days are numbered. Very soon, my attention will be divided between two little girls and I'm worried about how that will affect both us.
We head to the playground by the duck pond. Bean holds my hand as we walk across the parking lot and over a small stone bridge. And the she runs to the playground and starts climbing and sliding. I'm trying to mentally memorize all these moments. For now, it's just us. And it's beautiful and sweet, like so many days previous. Baby Hoat Tote is coming less than six weeks. I'm beyond thrilled to meet this new being that's been growing inside me for so long, but I'm terrified at how this will change our family dynamic. Bean is my buddy. When we moved here, she was literally my only companion for months on end. Watching her evolve from this shy, tantrum addled toddler to this boisterous, friendly and imaginative preschooler has been enthralling, but a small part of me misses the clingy baby that wanted only me.
Watching her climb ladders and rock walls with little assistance from me, I can't help but feel lucky. When we were given her heart diagnosis all those years ago, I never imagined that she'd be so capable. And here she is scaling walls, while whispering "I'm not scared. Yook at me! I'm doing it." She is like my own Little Engine That Could (a favorite book of hers). When she reaches the summit, she looks down so proudly at me and says "You can do it too. I'll help you!" I decline, but smile broadly at her generous spirit. She runs off and finds a giant slide that terrified her last year and slides down laughing.
She then grabs my hand and takes me underneath the playground where someone was clever enough to install seats for my rather pregnant behind. Bean tells me that we are "Under the Sea" and she's Ariel and I'm to be Prince Eric. She pretends to swim, while I haphazardly recline on the seats that were designed for much smaller behinds. I pretend to hold a telescope and pet my dog Max while looking out longingly for my Ariel. Then suddenly an older girl shows up and warns Bean of the Dragon. The Dragon happens to be a two year old boy toddling about the playground roaring. Bean quickly gets sucked into the older girl's imagination and I watch in awe as the two girls run off constructing castles and moats in the same space that was just the ocean. There is talk of magic spells, of fairies, of dragons and mean witches and there is endless chorus of roars from the little dragon. I follow around my warrior princess marveling at her latent dragon slaying abilities and her ability to keep up with the older girl. Bean throws her head back laughing and I wish I had my camera out to capture the look of unbridled joy on her face. I'm getting tired though, so I give her the five minute warning that we are going to leave.
She hops down and waves goodbye to her new friends and takes my hand again. "Let's go see the ducks!" I oblige and we walk slowly towards the duck pond and find a bench and sit. She sits closely to me and points at the ducks and geese, making the requisite animal sounds. We sit huddled on the bench whispering funny things in each other's ears and giggling. In this moment, it's just us again and I feel grateful for this little girl beside me. But I'm more grateful that I get to share her with Hoat Tote. As scared as I am about our growing family, I also know a little secret: The best gift I can give Bean is a sister.