Several weeks before her Birthday she begged me to take her to a small grocery store chain here called Trader Joe's. Trader Joe's not only has lots of the fresh fruits that this sweet girl begs for, but it also has little grocery carts...just made for kids.
It had been quite a while since I had taken her shopping there and somehow we managed to find time just for us and we headed there with great excitement. Oh, what fun! Grandma by herself, little grocery carts, all kinds of fruit AND balloons.
She went eagerly inside the door and snagged a cart and then got the funniest look on her face. "Grandma," she said, "I am too big to push this cart." I told her she wasn't and she started pushing it half-heartedly but abandoned the idea totally before we even got halfway down the first aisle.
"I'm too big now," she repeated, sadly, and we returned the small cart and got a regular sized one. Not nearly as fun.
She was quiet in the store and said, "no thank you" quietly to the idea of a balloon.
When we got in the car I asked her if she wanted to talk about it. She just shook her head and was pretty quiet until we got home. The cart was was forgotten when she jumped into the swimming pool.
On Friday night we went to a Birthday party for my sister at Chase Field. When the kids started getting bored my husband and I took Julia, along with her sisters, Mom and Aunt, to the kids level to see what was up there.
A really wonderful playground attracted the girls immediately and Julia went running over, only to stop abruptly when she encountered a sign that said "You must be shorter then this arrow to play."
Again, that funny look crossed her face and my heart did a little twist of sadness for her.
We sat in the stands and watched the game while her sisters played and after a bit her warm, freckled hand joined mine. I squeezed it and she leaned against my shoulder.
And I felt sad for her.
I told her that sometimes it felt hard growing up and that the trick was to find other things to do. Things that were made just for an eight year old girl.
I told her we would go out this week by ourselves and figure out things just for her. And I'm hoping I can come up with something.
As "daycare" Grandma I have been so fortunate to have seen almost all of this little girl's "firsts"... first teeth, first steps, first successful use of the potty chair. Together we have had first swings, first slides, first swims, first stories. I've watched her get her first haircut, first training pants and go to school for the first time.
And now I am seeing a "last" that makes my heart feel sad.
We talk so much about treasuring each moment with our children and our grandchildren.
It does go by in the blink of an eye.
And we remember those firsts in scrapbooks, and stories and pictures.
But how do we know when something is the "last"?
If we knew when it was the last time they would want to sit on our laps for a story would we stretch that moment out and say the words really, really slowly so it could last forever?
Or if we knew it was the last time they could push that little grocery cart would we let them fill it up with strawberries and grapes and watch every tiny inflection of joy on their face so our heart could remember it forever.
At eight Julia is too young to know that change is often the catalyst to learn and try new things.
And I recognize in these "lasts" that we are also heading toward a time of many "firsts" as she starts this next part of her young life.
But oh, oh, oh.
I just want it to slow down.
Just a little bit.
And I would be even willing to let her hit me in the back of the heels again with that little grocery cart.
Just once more.