Over the years, on many a Saturday morning, I've grown accustom to hearing my doorbell ring followed by the door slowly opening (I leave it unlocked more often than I should) and then two little high-pitched voices asking "Can Petey come out and play?"
My neighbors' adorable granddaughters Liola and Mia have spent many weekends visiting their grandparents in the City. And over the years, they have come to know the small beige dog down the hall who is always happy to do a few tricks for some cookies, play ball (or circus, or dog show) in the hallway on a rainy or snowy afternoon, and even get two leashes attached to his collar so each of them could "take Petey for a walk" at the same time. Lucky for me, they'd even squabble over who got to pick up the poop!
Because sisters just a few years apart can quickly get on each other's nerves, the girls have been visiting one at a time rather than together lately. And Mia, so articulate and outspoken for her age (7), never fails to connect with me with her candor and wit.
One of my favorite "Mia-isms" was when she and Liola and I were walking Petey around the block and she looked up at me and with a huge sigh said "Dogs are my destiny."
When she and Liola got Loopy, a cinnamon-colored teacup poodle a few years ago, I said to Mia that I was glad she still loved Petey now that she had her own dog. She looked at me with an unblinking stare and said, "Don't be ridiculous, I hate you for even thinking that!" Point taken. I'd been dressed down by a first-grader.
Lately Mia hasn't been too pleased with our extended absences to Hilton Head. And as she and Liola get busier with their school activities and friends, I know those Saturday morning discussions and walks are going to become less frequent and my time with the girls will be cut even shorter as their grandparents become more reluctant to share their time with them. Already I miss them. One Sunday afternoon I came home to find the following note under my door:
I wanted to say hi but I forgot. I'll see you next weekend. Maybe.
I just loved the straight-forwardness of her message. Pure Mia. No sloppy sentiment, no over-promise. Maybe.
I'd been concerned how Liola and Mia might react to Petey's new appearance since his surgery. While less hair was cut over his brow than I'd imagined and his cheek is now velvety with new hair growing in, it still is a bit startling not to see both of his eyes under those shaggy brows. I spoke to their grandmother when I saw her by the mail room, so she could tell the girls what had happened to Petey before they saw him.
Sunday afternoon, I came home to find another note from Mia under my door. This brilliant and beautiful little girl had summed up my own feelings eloquently and succinctly.
I saw Petey. I was really sad when I saw him. But luckily, he didn't look too bad. Thanks for leaving the door open.
Your friend Mia
I have no doubt that their reunion was filled with hugs and kisses and heart-felt conversation. And I'm glad that it was private, that I wasn't there to eavesdrop. I'll keep Mia's note and look at it from time to time. There's so much to learn from children and I know I have found an amazing professor.
Mia, Petey and Liola, a couple years ago, after walking Petey down the hall.