She read to get to the goal of a cheeseburger, fries, ice cream lunch from a local hamburger joint.
She was determined to get the top prize, and she did.
Along with five other first graders.
Last week all of first grade celebrated, yet again, reading books as their sole homework in February.
As a top reader, Gigi got to pick a free book that came with a stuffed animal.
She chose this fat mouse.
His name is Frederick.
He's the star of a book written by Leo Lionni in1967.
Frederick is an artist at heart.
He's not like the other mice in the burrow.
Gigi has been sleeping with Frederick every night.
If we are having rice for dinner, she sets a plate of rice out for Frederick.
She and Frederick drink chocolate milk together in the morning.
He has a special little plastic tea cup to drink from.
Her imagination is bursting when it comes to this pudgy mouse with the droopy eyelids.
And I smile openly when I see her talking with him.
And then my mind wanders.
Wanders to her sister.
And I remember that Zoe never did things like this when she was seven.
Zoe had an imaginary friend when she was two.
Her name was Fajohnna.
Fajohnna would call her on the phone.
She would come over for dinner.
Zoe didn't have a real sister, so she made herself a playmate.
When we moved to the farm she had a new friend.
Haykin the deer.
She claimed that one of the many deer that wandered into our yard was her pet deer Haykin.
When she would see him (they all looked the same to her father and I, mind you) she would grab the dog's leash and run out the door.
All the while yelling "Haaaayyyykiiiiiin!"
Of course the deer would all run away.
And she would slump her head down and slowly trod back into the house.
Until the next time she saw him.
Then the same scene would play itself out, head slump and all.
Once she had a real playmate, her sister Gigi, she dropped Fajohnna and Haykin.
But, quickly became discouraged when her new infant playmate wasn't actually playing with her.
We said "Give your sister time. She doesn't understand what you want her to do yet. One day she will play with you."
And since Gigi learned to walk at 9 1/2 months, she was mobile and chasing her sister around sooner than her sister was probably prepared for.
But there was joy.
When she was talking to Fajohnna on the phone.
Calling for Haykin to come inside the house.
Or hiding from her sister in the yard.
She had joy.
Then she had cancer.
Her five year old balloon was rudely popped.
Her rainbow of childhood joy became colorless.
Her world became one of gray colors.
Clumps of hair on her pillow after a restless night's sleep.
A world of fevers and extreme lethargy.
A world no child should be in.
And her childhood was put on hold.
She couldn't run after her deer friend anymore.
She could barely walk.
She couldn't talk to Fajohnna on the phone anymore because her mouth was full of sores from chemo.
Her sister was still there, but she was a reminder to her.
A reminder of what she couldn't do.
Gigi would visit her sister when Zoe was hospitalized with a fever.
Gigi would make videos on the iPad of herself dancing and singing, and you can see Zoe behind her in these videos.
Laying in a hospital bed.
Too tired to move.
Miserable from fever.
Her small body fighting off an infection.
It's surreal to see these videos now.
As a mom, I was in the hospital making sure my very sick daughter got the best care from the medical staff.
But my other daughter, my healthy daughter, needed me as well.
So there was a duality seen in these videos.
Two sisters, in sickness and in health.
Zoe's fine now.
She's been given a clear bill of health.
And she doesn't remember Gigi making the videos.
Unless we pull them up and all giggle at Gigi's antics.
And see Zoe miserable in the bed.
And I'm sad for her.
I'm sad that she missed a few years of her childhood.
Childhood shouldn't be interrupted.
It should be carefree.
It should be joyful.
It should be full of imagination.
And Zoe's imagination was halted and I see that when I see Gigi feeding Frederick a piece of her donut.
My mind wanders...back to a time that seems like just yesterday.
We can have a clean bill of health for our daughter, but cancer never really ever goes away.
There are future tests for her growing body.
The memories have yet to fade for us, her parents.
They are absent or fuzzy for Zoe.
She's, luckily, making new memories.
And we don't forget that, either.