One afternoon last year, just as we're turning off the highway on our way to the arena for a basketball game, Josie pipes up from the back seat, "When Nonni was a little girl, did you take her to the basketball games?"
By then she had clued in to the fact that her grandmother was once a little girl. I, on the other hand, am eternal.
She is gradually coming to understand that we have pasts. That Nonni is Mommy's Mommy. That GigiBunny is my mommy. I tell her that when I was a boy I had long hair very much like hers and that sometimes my girlfriends would put it into a long braid for me. She can't quite figure out if I'm kidding or not. I tell her that I'm going to find some old photographs and prove it to her (I don't think I have any of me with the braid, but I do have some of me with the very long hair -- and when I was nineteen it was remarkably similar in color to what hers is now).
When we were in Hawaii in May, we were all getting ready to head out to the beach. Josie was holding the heavy door open while the three of us (Nonni, Nonai & Mommy) were gathering up our things. She was impatient. "C'mon, guys! I need a parent to hold open the door!"
Amused, I ask, "And who are your parents?"
"You guys," she says, in the tone of voice that a four year old uses when you've asked her a particularly stupid question. Of course we are.
The other day, she asked me, "Where's your other ring?"
My other ring, I think? I've only ever worn one ring. What is she talking about?
"I just have the one ring, Bug."
"But you've been married two times."
Ahh, now I get it. Having been to a couple of weddings now (most recently, her dad's wedding in November) the notion interests her. She has recently discovered that both Nonni and I are married to each other and that we have each been married once before. So I explain that once I was no longer married to the other person I put that ring away and don't wear it anymore.
That we have had other lives, and that we are connected in all of these different ways, is fascinating to her. That there was a time in our lives before her. Because for her, we have been there from the very beginning.
I point to the picture on the dresser in the guest room. "Who's that?" I ask with a grin.
"You were brand new. Scarcely two hours old. I could practically hold you in the palm of my hand. And look at you now, big girl!"
She giggles, wraps her arms around my neck, buries her head in my shoulder and sighs contentedly.