This past Saturday, Wyngate Elementary had a sock hop, and true to this community's mode d'emploi, it was sweet, good clean fun. Just the girls and I went. We walked there with the neighbors.The gym was hot and loud. The dj was crowded by a wall of 8-10-year-old girls screaming at that pitch that girls scream at. Young boys were sliding and running around the floor. Kit hooked up (literally) with a few friends right away. They linked their glow-stick necklaces and made a glowing rope, and wound their way in and out of the crowd for about an hour of endless fun. Gabby surveyed all of it pretty quickly, sat on the floor, then headed out the door. She wanted air and the PTA snack table full of goodies. More than that, she wanted to go home.
I chalked it up to the overstimulating environment and wrangled her along as we reentered the gym so I could get my coat. I mean, it was a pretty obnoxious atmosphere (and could not by definition be any other way). Then Ava (Gabby's self-appointed best friend) appeared out of nowhere, grabbed Gabby by both hands and leaned into her face, speaking so clearly and excitedly, ""C'mon Gabby! Let's dance!" . . and off they went.
I learned a lot about Gabby right then. What she minded was not seeing a friend right away. She didn't mind the noise or the heat or the darkness or the swirling disco lights. In fact, she and Ava loved them, and pointed at them and danced and jumped and smiled and got soaked with sweat for over an hour. I was disappointed when Ava told me her mom wasn't there--someone had brought her-- because this is the kind of thing a parent should see: the purity of your child. They danced in a big embrace during the "mother and son" dance (to Louis Armstrong's "It's a Wonderful World," in case I wasn't teary enough already).
Gabby always has been loved and accepted, and has always had friends. I just know, as kids get older and the activities get more complicated and the expectations greater, that pure friendships will be more difficult to come by. We are in a good place right now. The reason we moved her along to second grade was because of the relationships she had built with that group of kids. They get her, they genuinely like her, and they help her to learn how to be a kid in school. But these moments, when there is no pressure, when everyone has a free choice about what they want to do and with whom, can you blame me for experiencing an overwhelming feeling of relief and joy?
At the end of the night when my neighbor and I were herding our cats to leave, and I still had Ava with us, I asked where the adult was that she had come with. Then out of the blue appeared a mom to claim her. She offered a hand to introduce herself, and I said "Hi! I'm Christine, Gabby's Mom," feeling as though if I was wearing the tiara at this prom. She offered her name as well, adding, "I'm Sara's mom."
And then I saw it all.
There was Sarah. And where had Ava been all night?
And how could I ever have seen Gabby on this side of the fence? It is a totally new view that I will have to remember to consider.
(Gabby and Ava, on her left in red.)