The girls watch Sound of Music, pressed side by side on the couch. They sing along to ‘Do, a Dear”, beg to keep watching past bedtime. I chop fresh cilantro and avocados, squeeze limes and garlic. Later when our friends are over, eating chips and playing board games at the dining room table, I hear the girls shrieking and giggling together. Secret sister language under yellow glow in the dark stars.

When M walks into the room of adults after playing at the zipline, her face looks scared, fragile. She makes it till my lap on the couch and then it shatters, dissolves into silent sobs. I hold her while she cries. She doesn’t want to tell me about it. This is a sorrow deeper than cut hands or scraped knees. This is the wound of taunts and embarrassment. I hold her in her brokenness, the suffering of childhood.

J stuffs her spelling test into a side pocket of her backpack. No pride in two small errors. Misspelling Sunday at age six, enough shame to overshadow her brilliance.

P comes out of her bedroom after the lights are out. Her hair sticks out in the memory of pigtails. “Mommy, can you call me Starshine?” “Yes, darling. Goodnight Starshine.” She grins and turns back to the door. “Goodnight Mommy.”

The girls know that snacks aren’t easy to procure before supper, but they each have found their loophole. J asks for tomato slices, tonight a whole tomato, cut into quarters. P asks for red pepper “Big, mommy” so I cut a wide piece, curved like a bowl. M picks at onion slices, even garlic pieces if needed, but is happiest with carrots.

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