There’s so much I could write about, but so little time, since tomorrow I’m actually leaving on a tiny little bit of vacation! Woo hoo!
Every year, we spend a week at a family camp in New Hampshire that Alastair has gone to with his family since he was younger than our girls. It’s kind of like summer camp for grown-ups: cabins, meals in the dining hall, various fun activities, lots of hang out and chill time. We look forward to it all year long, so we were very bummed at the idea of not being able to go at all. But it’s worked out (at least, as of this minute; it could change at any time) so I can go up with Elsa for part of the week, and then Alastair will be up with her for the second part of the week.
And I haven’t packed a damned thing yet.
But I just wanted to share this brief tidbit of “kids say the darndest thing,” cancer-style.
See, it’s Elsa. Who, in spite of her occasional jealousy and frustration, is mostly sort of fascinated and excited by this whole situation. She is very curious about the medical aspects, and loves “doctor stuff.” (So she was thrilled at the bag of medical paraphernalia that Clio brought home for them to play with, complete with a doll who the nurses fitted with a pretend port-a-fuse — above.) And, like Clio, she has none of the fear or emotional baggage that adults have regarding the words “leukemia” and “cancer.”
This means that sometimes she likes to tell complete strangers that Clio has cancer, and discombobulate them completely. (While embarrassing us.)
The most recent incident happened when we were at a playground with the girls, and they were on the merry-go-round — an old, metal thing, circa 1976, with vaguely animal-shaped things to sit on: dolphin, dog, horse, and possibly a bunny — with a couple of other kids.
Alastair and two other dads stood awkwardly nearby, occasionally intervening when whichever kid was pushing pushed too fast, or when they fought over who got to ride the horse, which everyone wanted to be on. At some point, the kids decided that they were “chasing” each other on the animals. So they were shouting stuff like “look out, the dog is going to catch the dolphin!” or “Everybody chase after the horse!” or whatever.
I wasn’t really paying attention for most of it, actually; I was lying on a nearby slide (metal; also circa 1976) with my sun hat over my face, enjoying a little pseudo-siesta. But I snapped-to immediately — and laughed out loud; I couldn’t help it — when Elsa said, gleefully: “Everybody chase after my sister! Because she has cancer!”
In the silence that followed (after my squawk of a laugh, that is) the squeaking of that old merry-go-round sounded really, really loud.
We talked with Elsa afterward, yet again, about how a sickness like cancer is kind of a private thing, and it makes grownups feel very worried and sad, so let’s remember not to talk about it with people who don’t know us, unless they ask about it, or unless mommy and daddy say something first, mmm-K?
But it’s hard to figure out a way to make it really sink in. She knows–both of them do–that cancer is a serious illness, and that sometimes people die from it. But in a more concrete sense, I think it feels to Elsa like a new and exciting adventure; something that’s special about her sister, and by extension, her. So of course she wants to tell the world.
She takes after her mom, I guess.