To avoid waking up Paige, we set up a sleeping bag Payton in Eli’s bedroom. Tomorrow we’ll pick up a toddler bed and she will start sleeping in Paige’s room. Their room. As if sleeping in a virtual stranger’s house is a regular occurrence, Payton climbs into the sleeping bag and lies down immediately after I tell her. Eli is excited about the impromptu sleepover and is bouncing on his bed.
I push Eli down gently and tell him to calm down, pulling his navy blue dump truck comforter up. Handing him Bunny, I plant a kiss on his cheek. “I love you,” I tell him, keenly aware of Payton on the floor next to his bed. Is she upset that Ruth and David aren’t here to give her kisses and tuck her in?
I turn to Payton and kneel on the floor, flipping the sleeping bag over her small body. “Nighty night, Payton.” I hesitate; should I give her a hug? She doesn’t reach for me so I stand up.
Big Dog, the stuffed companion she has had since she was an infant, is tucked in beside her. He is a stuffed brown dog with flattened fur (she uses him as a pillow). His tag is worn to just a few threads because she rubs it between her fingers to relax and put herself to sleep. Sadly, I realize Big Dog is probably the only consistent, reliable thing in her turbulent young life.