Dear Mallory and Sophia,
OK, I know. Between your father and me, if my math is correct, this is the seventh time we’ve gone to Ghana without you. After the third time you stopped asking to come. After the fifth time you stopped getting upset about it. After the last time, you stopped asking for souvenirs. There are only so many carvings, recycled glass beads, and batik dresses one can own. You did make an exception for banana gum if I really felt the need to bring you something back, which I do, to manage the guilt of leaving you behind.
You’ve been very sweet to keep telling me how much you’ll miss me. We all remember missing Daddy a lot when he went to Ghana back in February. At first it was because he wasn’t there to take out the trash or make us dinner, but once we got used to that, we missed him just because he wasn’t with us. As for me, you skipped straight to the last part, possibly because you couldn’t think of any tangible way that I contribute to our family life other than our regular Star Trek (Original Series) Snuggles on the couch and my presence.
“You’ll miss my presence?” I asked.
“You know we mean p-r-e-s-e-n-c-e and not p-r-e-s-e-n-t-s, right?” Sophia clarified.
“That’s… nice of you to say,” I decided to not argue about all the work I do around here.
That’s because you’ll figure out the work I do when I’m gone, like… like, DISHES! I do dishes. Sporadically. I vacuum! When company’s coming. I tidy. I do tidy.
So you’re right, snuggles count big time and my presence will miss you too.
Mallory, it was super-kind of you to offer me to take your iPad to Ghana. I can’t even find an ulterior motive for you lending me this precious gadget you bought with your own babysitting and allowance money after months of saving! You use this object daily to chat with friends, do your homework, or make us laugh on Facebook. You’ve known me to both resent your iPad and desire it for myself.
This is how I talk to you about your iPad:
Look how easy it is to use! Look how much fun you’re having. Mallory, stop having so much fun, we miss you. You made that Stop Animation movie all by yourself? On your iPad? This thing is amazing! It shouldn’t be called an iPad, it should be called the i of Mordor, because it sucks you in with its power. We’re losing you to the i of Mordor! Hey, you should take your iPad to Aunt Tracey’s to take a video of Baby Bridget!
And so on.
I was complaining about the bulk of my laptop and how inconvenient it might prove to be on this trip. Without skipping a beat you wondered if I’d like to take your iPad. After feeling such shock and relief that we haven’t yet lost you completely to the iPad, my reaction was ABSOLUTELY YES! And then I had another conversation with you about the iPad:
I think I’d like to take it. But there’s the typing issue. I love to type and I can’t do the touchscreen thing. Oh, but you have the keyboard attachment! But my files. I have a strange attachment to my files – I may have to refer to things or access things? You just never know. But how will I chat with you if I have your iPad? How will you do your homework? What if I love your iPad so much I won’t give it back?
You did the right thing and ignored most of that and suggested I bring both the iPad and your laptop. What a little voice of reason you are. I was talked out of it by an even bigger voice of reason, your Dad, who reminded me that I’m already bringing two cameras, iPod, voice recorder, two cell phones and my big old laptop? How much technology does one need?
“But I won’t be able to play Bejewelled Blitz on the plane!” was my last ditch attempt to convince myself that bringing your iPad was possibly the best worst idea. I wasn’t so indecisive before I had a teenager, you know. A loving, selfless teenager. Do you know how much banana gum you’re going to get because of this?
Sophia, I know I confused you a little bit when I told you and Mallory as I tucked you into bed on our last night together, “Remember, you’ll be the Ladies of the House.” I must have gleaned it from a TV show, like the Waltons or Leave it to Beaver, when I was young and took it to be something good parents do when they leave on a trip. It seemed thoughtful and wise to assign a replacement in one’s absence. Usually it was the eldest child. Certainly it was a deemed honour. Maybe because our family is small, it seems unfair to assign the title to one daughter and not the other. You both got the title. So in my absence, you’re both Ladies of the House. But you raised your hands in the air, waved them like you just don’t care, and said, “Can I get a whoop, whoop?”
“Sophia, it’s Ladies of the House, not Ladies in da House.”
Your response? “Ladies of the House in da House! Whoop, whoop!”
Clearly, we are products of two very different TV generations.
Seven times or not, it’s no easier to leave you two behind! Even though it’s only for 10 days, I know that all kinds of important things are happening in your life, like your poetry recitals at school, the 30-hour famine with the youth group, requests from friends for sleepovers, and awesome moves on Just Dance 3. I am well aware of the privilege of being with you almost every day, getting the chance to debrief with you after school, prolonging bedtime to talk about secrets, doing errands with my little buddies. Even on those days when we don’t specifically do anything together… well, your presence is very special to me.
I’ll miss your presence more.