Having a bagel breakfast date with my girl

Gale Hammond’s granddaughter Emily.

Emily Mae came to us on a golden day in April 2009. Born 22 months after her sister Gracie, Emily was a bouncing baby girl weighing a hair more than 9 pounds.
“She’s a tank!” my proud son-in-law boasted when he called to let us know our girl had arrived. Hubby and I were at their home in Long Beach taking care of Gracie while Emily made her debut.
Fast-forward almost five years and a move to Morgan Hill, and our second grandchild is blooming. In fact, she doesn’t seem to be tethered to any weighty, earthly realities. Witness this conversation we had one morning last year.
Emily: Mimi, there’s a monster with big teeth and he’s REAL!
Me: Emily, monsters aren’t real.
Emily: YES, they are TOO real!
Me: How do you know they’re real, Emily?
Emily: Because I saw one when I was a butterfly!
Girlfriend made it sound so good I wanted to be a butterfly, too.
Occasionally I get to spend a day with my little sprite because she goes to junior kindergarten at a different school than where her mommy teaches fourth grade and where Gracie is in first grade. And when their schedules vary, I’m the back-up kiddo watcher.
Emily makes no bones about wanting to go to the same school as Gracie and Mommy. She gets grumpy about having her mom drop her off at her school while they motor on to theirs. It’s even begun to spill over now and then into behavior at home and at school.
“Emily had to sit in the naughty chair at school today,” reported her mom not long ago. Ah, little Miss E. was asserting her independence and discontent about how life is treating her. Knowing this isn’t her usual happy self, it made me want to gather her close and hug all those bad feelings away. I wanted her to feel like a butterfly again.
Something else concerning little girls has been weighing on my mind lately. Last month, a sweet, beautiful 6-year-old lost her life to a rare form of cancer. She was a little girl from Gilroy whose mom one of my daughters met through social networking and the other knows through the courageous mama’s blog. I’ve followed their journey, too, and if there is one common thread running through the tragedy of losing a child, it’s making everyone whose life is touched by it hold their little ones ever so much closer.
So with gratitude in my heart for our four healthy young grandchildren, it nevertheless made me ponder what might be running through Emily’s head: why things are getting her down; why she doesn’t feel she is as smart or talented as others in her class at school. Although my daughter swears Gracie went through this, being once removed from the hierarchy of parenting, I wasn’t as aware of it with Gracie as I am now with Emily.
Maybe Emily sensed I was more open one day recently when I was standing in for Mommy and Daddy during one of her days off from school. She’d requested a cinnamon bagel, and there at the bagel shop she confided that her friend at school had done some unkind things – she told the teacher Emily did some things that got Emily into trouble. Except Emily hadn’t done those things.
“Did you talk to your friend about it, Emily?” I asked, hoping to be the problem-solver. Emily said she hadn’t because her friend was “just teasing.” I tried to explain that maybe by talking to her friend and telling her that doing this hurt her feelings, maybe she wouldn’t do it anymore.
Suddenly Emily was veering off that whole serious subject.
“No, Mimi, it doesn’t hurt my feelings,” she sighed, crunching into her bagel. “She just says I’m a big kiki-booboo-head,” she added, apropos of pretty much nothing.
I watched Emily as she chewed her bagel with her quickly increasing cream cheese mustache. Just another day, enjoying a bagel breakfast date with my silly girl.
Because that’s how we butterflies roll.
Gale Hammond is a writer and freelance photographer who has lived in Morgan Hill since 1983. Reach her at [email protected]

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