One of Namine’s Christmas presents was a fold-out tent and tunnel. She was so excited while I was setting it up that she literally (and yes, I do know what it means when I say that) could not sit still. I had to tell her repeatedly, and repeatedly, and repeatedly (ad nauseum) to back away, because I didn’t want her to get whacked in the head, or anywhere else, with the poles that hold the tent together.
When the tent was done and I flipped it up into its standing position, Namine positively squealed. I mean I’m still recovering my hearing. And when I untied and unfolded the tunnel? Dogs started barking outside, I’m certain of it. After it was assembled, I left Namine alone with it in the living room to help Jessica with dinner in the kitchen. I peeked on her occasionally, only to find her zooming in and out of the tent, back and forth through the tunnel, talking to herself and laughing.
Most of Namine’s presents are educational in value. Namine loves to read, color, and all that jazz; she likes all her presents, but nothing else came close to the tent and tunnel, as far as pure, unadulterated joy. It made my heart feel all fuzzy to know that she loved her present so much.
As Namine started to cool down a bit – at this point, she was out of breath from scooting so much, so quickly – I peeked into the living room again to hear what she was saying. I had caught little bits from the kitchen: she was pretending the tent was an elevator, she was pushing buttons. But I had to come closer, and when I did, my heart dropped and I wanted to cry.
Namine was pretending the tent was an elevator, all right; it was the elevator at the hospital, and we were taking her to see the doctor. She was going for surgery, and the tunnel was the hallway to the OR. “It’s okay, sweetie,” I heard her say to her doll, probably pretending to be either me or Jessica, “you need surgery. You sleep now.” She didn’t know I was listening. She thought she was alone, and that’s just as well. I couldn’t help but cry; Namine’s play brought back so much pain in memories. Pain, I suppose, that will never really go away.
Namine does not see herself as unfortunate. She does not think of herself as handicapped. She simply is, for this is her life. But after all the pain she’s had to suffer through, she is not bitter. She loves us, and she knows we love her. It is enough.