At some point on our way south, one of us always remembers something important left behind in Michigan. This year, it wasn’t the favorite slotted spoon, or the backup memory card for the camera.
--I miss _____.
--Is that what you’ve been thinking about all these miles?
--No, but I think about her. Do you want me to drive?
--I’m fine. I think about her, too. Mostly in terms of disappointment.
--I just miss her, that’s all.
--Yes, that’s the word. She’s gone missing. Our oldest granddaughter is now somewhere else. In her place is a beautiful, fifteen-year-old lanky redhead who looks just like her. The one who comes to visit now is no more present than the one who’s gone missing. All I see of her for the most part is the part down the center of her hair. Always bowed over some piece of technology, fingers flying. She doesn't have to be with us at all, now. Or any adults. She can e-mail or text-message her likewise held-hostage buddies wherever they they may be.
--Remember how she’d come down in her sleeper? Trailing a blanket? She’d curl up next to me on the couch with it. Cuddle close, then bring her hand out from under the blanket and hand me Doctor Seuss. It would be concealed until that moment. She’d be fighting to stay awake, to hear me read to her.
--It’s one of my favorite photos.
--The one in the dining room.
--She has her chin propped on her hand, looking at the book as you read. Hardly able to keep her eyes open. You are beautiful in that shot.
--Something else that’s gone missing.
--Her brother’s still the way he was.
--For now. You watch, he’ll turn on us, too.
--Always the early bird. Down every day first thing when they visit.
--My grandson is hard-wired for dosings of toaster waffles on waking. Down he comes, very quietly.
--But he never makes demands, he’s never crabby. Long before now, ______ was always gvetchy when she came down. Groaning and moaning. Not her brother. He just pads down the creaky stairs and starts his morning routine in the big chair.
--Game Boy in hand.
--Or a book.
--It’s true, he’s become such a reader. I love seeing it.
--Is he imitating his sister?
--No idea, and I don’t care. If he’s a reader, that’s all that matters. Dragons, extra-terrestrial dustups between weird tribes of mutants—no matter. He’s reading, that’s what counts.
--I feel so old.
--Travel on the Interstate will do that.
--I wish I had a Starbucks. I wish I had ______.
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