Saia is actually Elan's second cousin, or first cousin twice removed, or some such thing, but we are all just saying "cousin" cause it is way easier. She is four and a half and, with a sister a few months younger than Elan, she is a pro at being the big sis. She quickly developed an interest in showing Elan how to do things, like climb into her treehouse (she made sure he stepped carefully), go down the long and bumpy slide (she helped me catch him at the bottom), and play a whistle in her room (above). Elan could not have been more thrilled to be taken under her wing. At one point, she was even getting him to eat sourgrass, despite the fact that IT IS GREEN. And he was looking at her with this very particular expression on his face, one that I could only remember seeing once or twice before, with our neighbor in San Diego, Eva, herself an "older woman," who at the ripe age of five, managed at a neighborly dinner to feed him six bites of FISH.
I kept trying to pinpoint the expression on his face - one part awe, one part respect, tinged with a tiny bit of self-conscious fear that he would not make it down the big slide and would disappoint her. And then I realized: sheer, unadulterated adoration.
I told Mikhail it is a good thing Saia is a kind and smart kid, because if she led him over to the five-foot drop-off on the other side of the fence and said jump, he would.
And then I wondered when I could get her to come over and feed him a big bowl of broccoli.