Everyone was gone. Everyone, that is, except me and Caroline.
Sophie and Roger went to a volleyball tournament in Reno. Izzy travelled with her school orchestra to a competition in San Diego. And Caroline had her first ever volleyball tournament here in town.
It's been an interesting few days.
For one thing, Caroline's team lost every game. Just got...demolished.
Her team was markedly younger than the next youngest team in the tournament, but that fact was cold comfort in the heat of the bloodbath.
Every day for weeks I've listened to my girl say how excited she was to compete in this tournament. It was all she could talk about, that and the latest drama going on in On the Banks of Plum Creek.
And when I say compete, I do mean compete. Caroline does not show up to prance around the court and dream about unicorns. She is there to plunder and lay waste.
So to weather a day long drubbing...was something of a bitter pill to swallow. She wiped away more than a few tears and I gave her more than a few pep talks, telling her she was doing it exactly right: hanging in there, being a good sport, fighting for every point, congratulating her team, rolling the ball under the net, refraining from trash talk or evil eyeing the ref.
By the end of the day I thought she'd be ready to throw in the towel. But it turns out she can't wait for the next game.
Izzy called later that evening to say after the competition, in which she'd been the soloist in a concerto played with her school orchestra, the judge asked her to describe what she liked best about her performance.
Izzy, caught off guard and standing on stage in an auditorium filled with peers, said she thought her intonation had been good. The judge responded by saying her intonation had been one of the weakest aspects of her playing.
I'm not going to sidetrack onto the various tangents this scenario inspired within me, but rather mention my greater curiosity was to know how she'd handled the moment. There was a time when such a public critique would have made my little Izzy's eyes shimmer. But over the phone she shrugged it off. It was no big deal, she said, he was entitled to his opinion.
I often wonder about this, about helping children navigate bumps in the road without losing hope or thinking their world is falling apart.
The weekend went on and Caroline and I had a lovely time together. We watched Ever After. We played Go Fish for Art. She slept with me in my bed and at 3:30 this morning, when I had to pick up Izzy from her orchestra trip, I put a pillow and blanket in the back seat of the car and woke Caroline up to come with me.
When she saw the arrangement, she exclaimed, "Ooooh! A hotel!"
Sometimes that kid kills me. She really does.
Seemingly out of nowhere, she mentioned she was bothered by the fact she didn't have many memories of her grandma, who died when Caroline was five. All through the weekend, then, she randomly remembered details about my mom and shared them with me.
Today, as we were setting up chairs for choir practice, she said the last thing she remembered doing with my mom was attending a funeral together. I stopped what I was doing and asked if she was sure it had been a funeral and she seemed very definite on that point...which is interesting, considering the only funeral she ever attended was my mom's.
She was eager, when Sophie came through the door, to demonstrate how she'd played in her tournament.
And Sophie knew just how to listen, just how to commiserate.
Tonight my head is full of thoughts...of the sweetness of my youngest, the gift of having her to myself this weekend, of raising resilient children, of teaching sisters to build friendships, and feeling how good it is to have everyone safely back home.