Rachel sits on the cement garage steps, clutching a green toy car, while I push baby-blue Crocs onto her feet. My fingers grasp her hand as I help her stand up.
Our feet—mine big and bare, and hers the tiny delicate ones of a three-year-old—pad on the cold, dark garage floor. My hand is holding Rachel’s, but not to support her. It is simply for the sake of feeling her tiny, pudgy fingers wrapped around mine.
I push open the creaky backyard gate, and we cross the pathway and our sun-warmed patio to the brick wall by our garden. A puff of wind pushes Rachel’s long ringlets out of her face, and her big hazel eyes shine back at me.
I hoist Rachel up on the faded, rough, rosy-colored bricks and then plop down beside her.
Mikey comes running up just then, with his hand curled into a fist. “Look what I found, Lydia,” he says seriously, and opens his hand to show me what is nestled inside.
It is a caterpillar, bristling with stripes of black and brown hair, curled tightly into a ball.
“Cool! It’s a woolly bear caterpillar,” I explain, and he hands it to me. I show it to Rachel, who is amused by the small creature. It sits very still on the palm of my hand. It won’t uncurl, but I know it is not dead. It is simply shy, afraid. Mikey stands around to watch it for a minute or two, but then he is off like a rocket to go do something else.
“It’s just you an’ me here, an’ da callapidder,” chirps Rachel, and I laugh because she is exactly right. I set the insect down on the rocky dirt of the garden and pull Rachel onto my lap.
We sit silently, waiting. Finally, the caterpillar feels safe. He stretches out once more into his original shape and plants his gray suction-cup feet onto the ground. He wriggles off to explore his surroundings, while Rachel observes cheerfully.
I smile, knowing that each moment like this brings me and little Rachel closer together. And as we grow up and mature, just like the woolly bear caterpillar will, I will always be there for her as her older sister.