Last week, on the drive home from nursery school, Alice asked what astronauts eat if everything floats in space.
“Not milkshakes,” she said. I agreed. Probably not milkshakes.
“Maybe,” she reconsidered, “if you have a special straw…”
At the craft store the next day, buying supplies for her birthday party, I happened to find some astronaut ice cream – that crumbly freeze-dried stuff that comes in a silver packet and feels like polystyrene.
“I have the coolest surprise for you,” I told her later. “You’re not going to believe it.”
She couldn’t believe it.
She has been eating her astronaut ice cream, a bite at a time, since then, promising she won’t finish all of it because she needs to save some. For space.
“Mama, you’ll have to buy more of these when I am an astronaut,” she told me. “For my lunch. A lot of them.”
(She didn’t notice how it knocked the breath out of me, her vast and wonderful sense of possibility.)
“Well, yeah,” was all I could say. “Of course I will.”
She spent most of this year dragging a step stool around the house so that she could reach things – the light switch, the sink, her bookshelf – without help. She likes to choose her own outfits and comb her own hair, and with exceptions for weather and occasion, it feels like a betrayal to say “No, let me.” So she leaves the house in stripes and sequins, with scraggly hair and a crooked part.
She feels proud and beautiful, I can tell.
At the ends of long days, she takes my hand and says, “Let’s go lie on your bed and giggle.”
She asked David to marry her. (He said yes).
She believes she will travel to space some day as certainly as she believes I will pack her a lunch to take there. That’s how I will remember Alice when she was 3.