Daddy and I would stand behind your crib, taking turns to watch you fall asleep, your eyelashes fluttering until shut in a goodnight kiss. We stayed nearby in case you needed us to pet your thick, dark hair or hold your hand.
You, dear daughter, were independent and just eight weeks when you slept through the night under a battery-operated galaxy. A colorful mobile eased you to sleep as it chirped out the song of artificial crickets. Your sunshiny nursery was stuffed with bunnies, bears, and dreams. The greatest learning tool, the alphabet, bordered your pastel walls.
Since those nursery slumbers, your sleep space has changed five times. In the past seventeen years, you have changed at least seventeen zillion times. Each bedroom makeover marked the beginning of a new stage and end of an era.
On your second birthday, two months before your baby sister was born, you had to move out of your cozy crib into a full-sized bed. You willingly did this for the baby you already loved. You hauled all your stuffed friends to your big-girl room spotted with ladybug bedding, curtains, wallpaper, and toys. Mr. Bunny, your favorite fuzzy crib mate, joined you in counting ladybug spots and reading favorites like Goodnight, Moon and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
When you were four, we moved, so you gained another new room. Dad painted your room purple (you thought you owned purple), with pink accents to host a troupe of decorative ballerinas. Purple appliqued dancers spun and pliéd on your pillow shams and quilt. Your first pair of ballet slippers slept on a corner shelf. Mr. Bunny wore a tutu and you tied back his ears in a bun.
At this girly-girl stage, you donned a variety of sparkly crowns and refused to wear pants. You improvised and pulled skirts over your soccer shorts. Your drawers overflowed with dresses and colorful tights, masterfully put on by yourself. You were a dancing rainbow.
Eventually, you traded your tiara for a ball cap, leotards for jeans, and princess gowns for a Taekwondo uniform. You kept changing and growing, and there was no magic wand in your dress-up bin to slow down the blinking clock of childhood.
By the time you were nine, you burnt out on purple (go figure) and asked for a room facelift. Your American Girl Doll named Kanani and a floral comforter inspired a luau theme. The calm hues of blues, mirroring your personality and Kanani’s dress, splashed your walls like a tropical Hawaiian resort. Mr. Bunny, wore a grass skirt, and you and Kanani wore matching jammies
Your island was your bean bag where you listened to Kidz Bop and conquered Common Core math. There, you also composed lyrics for your neighborhood band, The Dirt Devils, named after our vacuum cleaner.
You pinned photos of your best-friends-forever into cork boards that once displayed teacup pigs and unicorns. Lifesize cardboard cutouts of heroes from post-apocalyptic stories comforted you from the threat of zombies and ruthless governments.
In middle school, you craved more space, so we replaced your furniture with an all-in-one loft bed, complete with a bookcase, desk, trundle, and built-in-drawers. You kept the same blue walls, floral comforter, and Mr. Bunny, dressed down in the gingham bowtie he was born with. We swapped your growth chart with a full-length mirror and your dress-up bin with name-brand outfits. You hosted sleepovers with friends who borrowed your fashion trends from mounds of laundry carpeting your floor. Like good girlfriends, they shared, leaving behind their own piles of style.
Over the next five years, you climbed the ladder to your loft and spent a lot of time there reading, social mediaing, and nap, nap, napping. Beyond your foot or arm sticking out from above, we saw much less of you.
I resented the loft.
When you turned seventeen, we replaced that loft with a three-piece oak bedroom set. What a treat to be able to, once again, see your eyelashes shut in a goodnight kiss. Your heather-hued walls, yellow quilt, and simple decor were tastefully mature, but something was missing. Such a lovely room, but something about this makeover felt empty. For months, I couldn’t grasp what might be needed to fill the void: curtains, an area rug, a lamp?
I open your door to say goodnight and realize what is gone. As if in a dream, the clock Hickory Dickory Docks and strikes nearly eighteen times. I’m in a daze, inhaling fragrances from your youth: berry bubble bath, crustless pb&j, sixty-four new crayons. I breathe in all I can remember before I deflate and ask, “Where is Mr. Bunny?”
“That’s random,” you say but need no time to think. “I put him away in my closet.”
“Oh my my!” I cry “Closet? Put Away? But you rarely put anything away. Don’t you need him?”
“No, Mommy. Sorry.” You pat your hand to invite me to the empty space in your bed. I crawl in, both of us hush about Mr. Bunny’s unforeseen retirement. We know it’s the end of a rabbit-ears, comfort-toy era.
Lying next to you, I realize it’s been ages since you played make believe and dress-up with Mr. Bunny. He wore gowns to become your princess, hospital patient, and Jedi Knight. I calculate how few goodnight-moons and clock strikes remain before you’ll change into an adult, dressed up in a graduation gown.
Your next room will be a college dorm.
“Mom, do you need Mr. Bunny?”
I must stop counting down time, because, for now, you’re still here, not yet a visitor.
I pet your thick, dark hair and hold your hand. “No thanks. Not yet.”