Every day when I drop my 5 year old(5YOD) off at daycare, we pause at the baby room and look for our favorite baby. There is a new one every season. Right now it’s a round-faced boy with red hair that sticks up in a mohawk. He is always smiling. He makes us instantly happy and I’ve noticed the slightly prickly teacher in that group ALWAYS has him on her lap. He’s just that kind of kid; he oozes love.
So when we first started checking in every morning about 2 years ago, it was a little girl. The most perfect baby of babies; round head, fluffy blond curls, circular blue eyes which made her look permanently surprised, rosebud mouth, pink cheeks, and that same happy, curious demeanor which is contagious.
My daughter found out her name. Hopa, which I thought was unusual but fitting. Hope-Ah. And the 5YOD named her baby doll after her and slept with the doll every night.
Our day wasn’t complete if we didn’t see her.
And then, we didn’t see her for a long time, and I just figured her family had moved or something.
One day a bunch of the two-year old Green room kids were playing in the gym, riding trikes and falling over giant rubber balls, and the 5YOD pointed to a pale, peaky child with straggly hair and very thick glasses and said “Hopa.”
“That’s not Hopa,” I told her.
“Yes it is.”
I asked one of the teachers. “Yes, that’s Hope,” she said. I was confused and she noticed. “The other kids started calling her Hopa and it just stuck but her real name is Hope.”
I looked at the little girl and searched for traces of the healthy baby I had known and couldn’t find any, but I smiled at her and told her, “We have a doll at home named after you.” And her eyes lit up and for a moment I saw the baby I remembered, as if she was looking back at me through a smudged window.
And my heart broke just a little bit because it was clear that this was not a healthy child.
Still I knew kids who had beaten awful things, and I hoped it was not cancer though I knew a boy who beat that too.
It is cancer.
But not the kind that can be fixed. The kind with immeasurable pain.
“How long?” I asked my friend who knows the family.
“Maybe two years,” she said.
I am so monumentally sad.
I am so monumentally grateful.
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