On reversing roles

She showed up at the front door, suitcase in hand, wearing genie pants she purchased at a Spanish market. I think she is taller than she was five days ago because I had to raise my eyes further than usual to look up at her. She bent down to hug me and it felt strange to be the one receiving the hug instead of giving it.

When she sat down I kissed her head and inhaled. She still had the scent of travel on her, something like sweat and spice and seawater. She opened her suitcase on the coffee table and clothing exploded from the bag as we gathered around, expectant smiles. She brought gifts. Good ones, the kind of gifts that require thought and a puckered brow. She said she debated over buying her sister the castanets.

I would have too. 

She’s twelve and already I feel the ground beneath us shifting and I scramble to find sure footing. Most days I am the parent, but there are the few when I am the kid standing around a suitcase anxiously awaiting her stories, her gift. And I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t know how to be anything but the parent just yet. So, I settle in for a story, and I receive the hug and the gift (loose leaf black tea with vanilla and spice), and I wait out the tremors beneath my feet. I inhale her scent and I tell her I love her new cobalt blue genie pants. She asks if she can go to a birthday party next week, and the ground settles, and once again my feet feel sure.