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You’ve been there before, but never like this.

You're smiling like a Cheshire cat.

We can’t be late. We can’t be late! We can’t be late.

This conversation is like falling down a rabbit hole.

You’re the Queen of my heart.

Clues. We had tickets in our back pockets to a local production of Alice in Wonderland and simply told her a week in advance that a surprise was planned. Hints. She begged for them every single day from sunrise to sunset and we did our best without giving in or giving it away entirely. The day finally arrived and she picked out a dress she’d been eyeing in her closet since her grandparents gave it to her then we appeared in front of the auditorium where her dance recitals are held.

She's been here before, but never like this.

We handed over our tickets and received torn stubs in return before finding our seats. The curtains were open revealing a set of clouds and rolling hills and various props all intended to exercise our imaginations. Hers of which was running wild by my side, her head turning from her mother to me and from me to her mother. Her eyes like fireworks, exploding with curiosity between blinks. She sat in her seat then stood up again, climbed in my lap then back out again, unable to sit still.

She was smiling like a Cheshire cat.

The time, she must have asked for it every second. She pulled at her mother’s wrist, turning her watch over and over and tracing the hands with her fingers, willing them to move faster with sheer mental concentration, but no such luck. Time, as we all know, cannot be manipulated. Time cannot be rewound nor fast forwarded. Time cannot be rushed. Time cannot be delayed. Time cannot stand still. Time, the struggle we as parents have come to realize as the unfortunate truth, cannot be paused. 

We can’t be late. We can’t be late!

One by one, the seats were filling up. Chatter from fellow patrons climbed the walls and bounced from the balcony. We waited until suddenly the lights dimmed and the first actor took their place from stage left and the show started. She fought the urge to talk, but quickly gave in to whispering her questions and commentary in my ear from her seat upon my lap because the seat we paid for was far too low for her line of vision. She delivered words and quotes and plotlines from the story we knew well.

It was like falling down a rabbit hole.

The show ended and the house lights brightened and they took their bows then turned to the audience for questions. Other kids asked about memorizing lines and designing costumes, but she offered her applause by way of affection. She jumped at the chance when it was her turn to speak then she asked for a hug. I watched her wrap her tiny arms around one of the people we watched lit by spotlight for the last hour before skipping back to her mother and me. She’s a sweet spirit. She’s a good kid.

She’s the queen of our hearts.

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