By Jen Rouse
The Short Years
Today I found myself on my hands and knees in a parking lot, searching desperately for a tiny pink rubber seahorse.
It was Evie’s seahorse, and she’d just received it as a prize for her good behavior at the dentist’s office. She isn’t a formal patient of the dentist yet, but she’s so good at charming the staff there that they give her prizes right along with her older sisters. Oh, but she was overjoyed with that seahorse. She whinnied at an earsplitting pitch, bouncing it up and down in her hand. “Horse! horse! horse!” she chanted, grinning from ear to ear.
And then we went out to the car, and she climbed into her seat all by herself, seahorse in hand. And then she held it out to show it to me one more time, and then it slipped right out of her sticky little fingers, and I tried to grab it, but it was no use. It fell out of the open car door, hit the pavement, bounced once, and disappeared.
She gasped. I gasped. We looked at each other. Her lower lip was already pushing out, and her chin was wobbling. I could have just said, “Oops! Too bad! All gone!” and headed home. But as I stared into those big blue eyes, I just couldn’t do that to her. It was her horsie prize, and losing it made her sad. So I’m a sucker. So what.
No, I immediately hit the ground and started crawling around, ignoring whatever stares I was getting from the other people in the parking lot, scouring the uneven surface of the parking lot for the little rubber animal.
I spotted it–there!–it had bounced and rolled way, way under the car. And so I flattened myself down even further, and stuck my arm out as far as it would go, and with my cheek smashed against the pavement, I felt around with my fingertips for the pink seahorse. And then I found it.
And I handed it back to her, and she smiled up at me and whinnied cheerfully, and all was right with the world again.