I was so happy to see my dear friend Heather and her husband, but the highlight of the hugfest for me was watching the kids reunite. Two-and-a-half year-old Zachary watched everyone with keen interest. Ella and Max rekindled their friendship in a matter of seconds. Mitchell was shy at first, hiding safely behind Max, and Sacia was equally hesitant, clinging to her mom, but I took both of them in my minvian (along with lots of luggage) and soon they were old friends again.
The drive to their house was so entertaining! I loved every noisy, hilarious second of the trip, including the thirty times Sacia said, "That's not my house," as we drove past other houses toward her Minnesota home. Mitchie eagerly showed Sacia his collection of current treasures, including his plastic carnival fish, double-tanked in a vending machine case and a recycled plastic jar; he carries them everywhere in his "Puerto Vallarta Purse," the striped yellow bag he has loved since our trip to Mexico when he was two. He snapped photo after photo, most of them just to squeal at the sight of the flash, with his disposable camera. Mitchell and Sacia sang songs, had a screaming contest, and spent a great deal of time discussing "poop" and bottoms and talking gibberish. The yellow daisies Mitch gave Sacia were used as a weapon, and I couldn't have been happier to confiscate the flowers; seeing those two towheads together, laughing and smiling, filled my heart with joy. It was as if they had just played together yesterday, instead of ten months ago.
"I call my dad a pig," Sacia informed Mitchell.
"Then I'll call my dad a pig, too," Mitchell replied, laughing hysterically.
"I bet your dad doesn't like that," I told Sacia. They both ignored me.
"Let's scream," Sacia said.
"Okay," said Mitch, and the screams began. Their pitches used to match perfectly, but this time, Sacia's voice was a little higher.
For the first time in months, we explored the beautiful backyard with our friends, shared sandwiches, and watched the kids play happily together. Zachary explored his house, discovering new toys around every corner. He must have felt like he was wandering through his own personal toy store. Sacia said, "I have to go to the bathroom. Where's the toilet?" Her dad jokingly pointed to the woods, and then she managed to find her way to the real bathroom. Sacia and Mitchell played together in her bedroom with bristle blocks and Disney dolls, while Max and Ella hung out like the big kids they have become. Max was so excited to give Ella the jeweled angel pin he had bought for her months ago.
Ella easily talked me into a game of house, this time a more grown-up version than our previous sessions: She was Ellen Cook ("You can call me Miss Cook"), a pilot, ballet dancer ("It's all in the hips"), singer ("I see my future in the clouds"), and composer ("I just thought of that song right now") with a heavy British accent that she had likely mastered from one or more friends at her interational school. Ella ... ahem, Miss Cook ... loved wearing my wedge sandals, and they fit her even better than when she left for India last summer.
"I love you, too," Mitchell called from the car.