Playing, hard to get
As a baby, he would reach for whatever toy she was holding, anxious to get into the circle of her attention. "Take turns," we told him. But he didn't want his own turn. He just wanted to be a part of hers.
As they grew into the toddler stage, he would wrap his arms so tightly around her that he would literally sweep her off her feet. She would cry, confused by the attention and annoyed by the lack of personal space. "Julia is not for touching," we would tell him. "Hug a grownup instead." He did as he was told, but you could see in his eye that it was Julia he'd wanted all along, not the hug.
At 2, their playdates always ended in disaster. The expectations were always high. But he was just too excited, too exuberant, too full of love. She was just too quiet, too individual, too uninterested. "We'll try again another day," we told them time and again.
At 3, they finally began to find common ground. There were endless games of doctor ("shirts DOWN, please, you two!"), countless romps in the backyard or the park, elaborate imaginary games. "C is my best, best friend," Julia finally began to say. He glowed in her attention, content to follow her around and happy to let her run the show. "They're finally finding their way," we said happily. But it was still Julia who ended the hugs first and brushed off his repeated attempts to hold hands.
"Julia, will you live with me?" C asked her yesterday during a playdate. "I just love you so much." Julia didn't return his declaration of love, nor did she agree to shack up with him. Instead, she demanded that he color with her immediately. And while he agreed, a little bit of the fire went out of his eyes. "I'm very disappointed that you said no so much today," he told her at the end of the playdate. She just shrugged and gave him a hug goodbye. And the poor kid couldn't help but hug back.
Someday, C is going to move on to greener pastures and cast his lot with a girl who reciprocates his love with an equal fervor. And I can nearly guarantee that when this happens, that will be the day that Julia will finally fall head over heels in love with him. As an anguished teenager watching her love from afar, she will bristle when we recount again and again the story of how she turned down her very first proposition just months before her 4th birthday. She will look at this old picture and others like it and she will cry. And mean adults that we are, we will probably laugh.
You missed out, foolish girl. I've gotta say, I'm awfully glad that you won't be moving out to live with someone just yet, no matter how cute you two are together. But when the time comes, I hope that you'll find someone who is every bit as devoted to you as C has been. That kind of love doesn't come along every day.