I watch Z as she trots around her Nana and Papa's patio. The dress that used to graze her ankles now hits her shin, just below her knee. Ragged hair falls in her more angular face, her arms suddenly appear inches longer.
But it is her feet that catch my eye. Where once two perfect marshmallows plodded along, now there are long toes and arches, even a big girl arch on the outside of her foot where her suddenly bony foot no longer squishes into the ground.
At the playground that we visited this time last year, she doesn't need a boost up the stairs. She's no longer afraid of the tube slide. She lies on her stomach on the swing and pushes off with her legs. Instead of insisting on squishing herself into a baby swing, she pushes her sister instead.
I pick up E from the crib and fumble in darkness for the Boppy. Holding her with one arm is suddenly impossible, her lead-like bottom almost slipping out from under my elbow. When I lay her down on the Boppy, her feet extend off the side of the chair, her head is almost to my shoulder and it dawns on me that she may not need it anymore.
Without it, she sits on my lap to nurse. As she adjusts to this new position, her eyes still look up at me, one hand still grasps for my hair, the other still pinches at my stray flesh.
I stare at the plump, useless Boppy on the floor.
I wait in the pick-up line on Z's first day back to school after our vacation and close my eyes for a moment, feeling the weak sun's rays on my face, remembering Arizona.
When I open them, I see her, the mom I emailed a few weeks back. (And never heard back from.)
I watch her, bouncy and smiling as she runs around her car to buckle her daughter in. My car is right behind hers and there is no one behind me. E is happily playing in her carseat. For some reason, I don't feel nearly as shy and dorky as I normally do.
I don't give myself time to think about it more than that.
I jump out, run toward her - Hi! Are you R---?
When she nods and smiles, I keep going.
I'm J---. I sent you that email? The one that probably didn't make much sense?
Then she and I are both talking at once, standing there in the sun, both of us still smiling.