My daughter came home from first grade friendless, no one to play foursquare with on the playground or hold hands on the swings. Every day after school, she cried, No one includes me. I’m no one’s favorite. I hugged her and said, Your smile reminds me of summer. But she only heard the whispers of a sometimes-child whose love changed like wind.
I befriended another child’s mother, whose daughter hid behind her legs at a festival. The mother and I texted about soccer and school emails, shared babysitter names, and chatted in the pickup line by the bike racks. I asked her children to join us at the park, and the troop of them ran circles around a tall pine and hid under its branches, pretending they were runaways, living together in the wild.
All fall, I asked about the girl. Did you two play at recess? Did she ask to sit with you today? Until one winter night, lying beside me in bed, my daddy’s girl declared, She is my best friend. That makes you my third most-loved. Then, she lay her ear against the white noise of my heart and drifted to sleep, and I lay still, careful not to wake her.
Jody Gerbig lives in Ohio with her husband, young triplets, and too many pets. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, her work appears in Columbus Monthly, Brevity, Twin Pies, Litro, and many others. She currently serves as a senior editor for Typehouse Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @jodygerbig or find her other work at www.jodygerbig.com.