Two of Brooke’s horses
Katie and I had been at the grocery store. We’d been gone for an hour, tops.
As I set the groceries on the kitchen counter, I heard Luau’s voice.
“Someone’s asking if Mama can come upstairs!” he said.
Something wasn’t right. It was too sing-songy, too falsely upbeat. It was the voice we use when Brooke is on the edge because anything else pushes her over it.
I set the groceries on the counter, took a deep breath to make sure I was calm, and walked upstairs.
It was obvious that Brooke had been crying.
I sat down next to her on the floor and asked if she wanted a squeeze.
She took one, then headed for her horses.
An old pink toy box now serves as a corral. It’s far too big for the fifteen or so figurines that it holds, but its size is somehow appropriate. They mean a lot to her. They are a combination of Breyer models and My Little Ponies and McDonald’s give aways. There is no hierarchy. All are equal in the barn.
Every night, she puts them to bed. Each of them gets a “stuffed animal” to sleep with – a small Japanese eraser teddy bear or a tiny Dora figurine.
Luau said gently, “We were fine and then suddenly we just weren’t, right kiddo?”
She gave him a small, “Uh huh,” but her heart wasn’t in it.
I asked if she’d be okay if I went back down to the kitchen to put the groceries away. She said she’d like Luau to do it. God bless him, he’d never say no. So I sat.
One by one, she pulled the horses out of the box. She laid them carefully on the floor next to it, then immediately began the process of putting them back in. I sat with her. I didn’t speak. I watched.
One big horse. One little one. One big horse. One little one. And on it went.
She was murmuring while she worked. I could barely hear her at first, but as I settled into my own silence, her words became clear.
“Here I am, baby horse” she was saying over and over. “Come to Mama. You’re okay now. Here I am baby horse. Come to Mama. You’re okay now.”
And with that, she would set a little horse on top of a big one. Some of them were hard to balance. She worked at it until they stayed put. And again. And again. Until all the baby horses were lying atop their Mamas.
After finishing with the groceries, Luau came back to check on us.
“I think she just missed her Mama,” he said.
I smiled at him.
“Oh, honey,” I thought, “we’re way ahead of you.”
Behavior is communication.
Sometimes it’s tough to decipher. Sometimes, not so much.
When Luau left, I asked Brooke if she wanted to come to her Mama horse.
Without a word, she curled into my lap.
I began to rock. And knowing exactly what she needed to hear, I whispered in her ear, “Here I am, baby. Come to Mama. You’re okay now.”