Title: The Leaf That Is Part of a Tree
Summary: Lockboxes, languages, disappearing daddies and eyeballs. When you're seven, the world is a strange and wonderful place. Sequel to Meetings & Partings.
A/N: The blame for this goes squarely upon the shoulders of my dear tigerlily25. I have been battling kid!fic urges for an age, when all of a sudden, little Sylvia wants to play. And instead of telling me to fight it, she tells me to write it.
While this is kid!fic, it's not your usual fare. The world is not fluffy and perfect, it is simply seen through the eyes of a child. Please read and review. Comments are always appreciated. Toda!
My name is Sylvia Sciuto McGee. McGee for my daddy, Sciuto for my Mom, and Sylvia just for me. I'm seven years old, I have green eyes and brown hair that my mom always ties into pigtails, and my favourite colour is peridot.
My Mom says my name comes from the mother of Rome, and a nun who could bowl a perfect game without breaking a sweat. Daddy says Mom read too many books when I was still in her tummy. Uncle Tony says it doesn't matter, because I would still be a 'mini-McGee' whatever I was called.
My Auntie Ziva never calls me Sylvia, even though it's my name. She calls me 'yakiri'. I asked mommy once what it means and she said she didn't know. When I asked Uncle Tony he got this look on his face - like when he can't breathe so good - and told me it was Auntie Ziva's special way of saying she loves me.
I think Uncle Tony misses Auntie Ziva when she's away.
Uncle Tony lives in California, which is kind of like a magic place because it's always sunny and the bad guys never get away. I've been to see him there before and we went to Disney Land, and me and my Mom made fun of all the people in fanny packs and long white socks. Uncle Tony only made fun of my Mom.
Lots of people in California call Uncle Tony 'boss', but he makes a face whenever they say it, like he's trying to do a really hard math problem and has toothache, all at the same time. He's a special kind of policeman for people in the Navy, and if they've done bad things or if someone has done bad things to them, he always tries to make it right.
Sometimes Auntie Ziva lives in California too. Aunt ie Ziva is a Mossad, which means she does all kinds of cool stuff like Xena, except she has to do it from far far away and not while wearing a tight shirt because Mommy says Daddy's not allowed to fantastasize about that. I've only ever seen Auntie Ziva wear combats, and sometimes jeans, and a dress one time when she took me to her special Jewish church, and we sat and listened to a woman singing a beautiful song in words I didn't know. We lit six candles afterwards. She said they were for us to remember all the people who we had loved and lost.
When I was a really little kid, before I started at kindergarten even, I lost one of the people in my family. Mom says sometimes it doesn't matter if family is about blood and weddings and brothers and sisters – sometimes family is about the people who you care about so much you carry them around in your heart.
Gibbs was like a grandpa, except not. He didn't sneak me candy, like my grandpa in Louisiana who talks with his hands and sounds funny when he laughs but let me sit on his lap and drive the big red truck. And he didn't send me money every birthday like my grandpa from Maryland. Instead he told me stories and built me a toy boat with his own hands. It sits on the shelf next to my bed. He said every little girl needed a boat to have adventures on, and one day we'd go sailing on a boat of our very own.
We never went sailing though, because Gibbs got really sick, and even though my Mom said he really wanted to stay with me and her and all the rest of our family, his body was really broken, so God took his pain away and invited him up to heaven.
Some of the rest of my family are in heaven too. My Great Uncle Larry, Great-Grandma and Grandpa McGee, and Director Jenny and Ducky.
Ducky was a doctor, and my Dad says he told the best stories in all the world. When I look at pictures of him he's a smiley old man who wears a bow-tie. Dad said his heart was too old and broken and that made him die, but my Mom says she just thinks he had to go first to prepare everybody up there for Gibbs.
Even though I was only a tiny little baby when he died, I think I remember Ducky a bit. One day in the grocery story my Mom caught me sniffing at a tin of tea, and when she asked what I was doing, I told her that it smelled safe. I thought she would tell me off, but instead she put the box of tea in her cart. I took it when we got home. Now it's in my lock box with a picture of baby-me in the arms of the old man with the funny colourful tie and the kind, gentle eyes.
Director Jenny was a special friend of Gibbs. She went to heaven before I was even born. Before he got sick, Gibbs would tell me stories about her, and about him, and their adventures in a magical land called Paris.
My Mom likes to tell me stories about Gibbs and Ducky and Director Jenny too. My favourite one is when they sailed across the Atlantic in a rowboat to escape the bad men chasing them. Mom says they would have gone again someday except a frog ate Director Jenny and so she can't row any more, but Mom says that sometimes she thinks they might be rowing in the sky.
Mom says Director Jenny has a really special boat, like the model on my shelf because in heaven Gibbs makes boats that can sail on water or clouds or anything. And when he's not busy watching me grow up and making sure I'm brushing my teeth and all, he's making sure Director Jenny and Ducky and the princess called Kelly are safe and having fun in heaven too.
Gibbs and Ducky and Director Jenny all used to work in the same place as my mom and dad and Uncle Tony and Auntie Ziva.
When I was born they all lived in Washington, except Director Jenny who was already in heaven. Gibbs was the boss and my mom played with her machines and everyone else did what they said.
Even though they all worked together, my daddy wasn't there when I was born. Uncle Tony was at the hospital with my Mom and said it's the scariest thing he's ever seen. Uncle Tony says I looked like an alien, but Mom always hits him when he says that and tells me I was beautiful. I've seen some pictures. I think I agree with Uncle Tony.
My dad's always a bit sad when they tell that story, because my daddy wasn't my daddy until I started kindergarten. Well, my mom says he's always been my daddy - like I have his blood and his nose and stuff - but he couldn't be there when I was a baby.
Mom says she had to keep it a secret for awhile who my real daddy was because she was scared that someone was going to get hurt. But then she said that sometimes you have to tell secrets otherwise they give you a funny feeling like spinning around and around until you can't walk properly, or like eating too much cotton candy and then trying to do ten cartwheels in a row.
I got secrets too, like that I was the one who ate the last cookie and told daddy it was the dog, or that I think Uncle Tony might still like Auntie Ziva because when I talk about her on the phone he coughs sometimes and I wasn't even trying to be funny. I told Mommy about it one time and she just laughed and said it was only a secret to Uncle Tony and Aunt Ziva.
I asked Auntie Ziva once about why my daddy and mommy hadn't both been there when I was a baby. She hugged me really tight and told me sometimes people have to have secrets even if they're really hard to keep. I asked if Daddy would ever go away again. She kissed my hair and promised that he wouldn't, because he still doesn't know where all her knives are.
I told her they were in the kitchen drawer.
She laughed hard at that and said I was really smart.
Sometimes grown-ups are weird.
Auntie Ziva writes me letters sometimes when she has to go away, but they're usually in languages I don't understand. I keep them in my lockbox. I think maybe they're secrets just for me about where she goes when she's gone. One day I'll learn how to read them, and then Auntie Ziva won't have to be away so much.
I know a whole lot of words from different countries. Uncle Tony taught me how to say good morning in Italian and Spanish, and when Auntie Ziva heard about it she laughed and then taught me some Hebrew and French, but not enough to read her secret letters. She said she'll teach me the rest when I'm older, which will be good because then I'll know what Uncle Tony's saying that makes Daddy cover my ears. She even taught me the Hebrew for 'aunt', which is Doda. For a while I used to call her that, but one day I was talking about my Doda Ziva in class and one of the stinky boys in the back row yelled out 'doodoo' and made me cry.
I don't think Ziva would like to called after poop... so now I just call her Auntie.
I told Mommy why I was just going to call Ziva 'Auntie' and she said one of Uncle Tony's words real quiet and then told me that not everyone was as smart as I am. And not everyone has secret codes. I like secret codes. I think I'll be a ninja when I grow up, or maybe a code-breaking-person like Daddy does sometimes on the computer. Either that, or I'm going to rescue animals in Africa and have a pet lion. I haven't quite decided.
One time Auntie Ziva came to visit and I got to stay up real late to pick her up at the airport. I fell asleep in the car, but when I woke up she was next to me. I was surprised because she was sleeping too, and grown-ups don't normally fall asleep when it isn't their bedtime. I wanted to wake her up and hear all about her adventures, but Mom wouldn't let me. She said Auntie Ziva was a little bit hurt and a little bit sad, and needed to rest for a while.
Uncle Tony came to visit the next day but I didn't get to pick him up. Neither did Mom or Dad and I think they were surprised when he knocked on the door at our house. He looked all rumpled and his eyes were all red and watery like the time Sandy Bentworth threw sand in my face. He went into Auntie Ziva's room and they talked for a long time.
When I asked my Mom why Auntie Ziva was so sad, she said that she had been far far away on one of her adventures, and something kind of bad had happened. She wouldn't tell me what, but maybe it's in one of my letters, and I'll find out when I'm older.
When Uncle Tony came out I told him that I was gonna punch the bad guy who hurt Auntie Ziva in the face (like I did to Sandy) if it would make her feel better. He hugged me and told me that I was his little Rambo, but that even Rambos get detention. Then he put on his serious face and said that sometimes we can't catch all the bad guys, but that Auntie Ziva's Daddy was going to punch him for her.
I asked my Daddy if he would do that for me and everyone was quiet for a really long time.
Next time Daddy picks me up at school, I think I might introduce him to Sandy.
The house we live in now is different to the house I lived in when I was a baby. My mom and I used to live together in a big house in Georgetown. We only lived in a little piece of it, but it was tall and I liked the stairway. They were always dusty and noisy and my slinky could go down all the stairs without even stopping!
Now we live with Daddy and I have a garden to play in as well. We used to have a dog called Jethro, but he got pretty old and went to heaven. Mommy says maybe we can get a puppy - and not one that we have to give back when he's smart enough - but one I can actually keep. When I told Uncle Tony on the phone that I might name my puppy after him he laughed and then coughed so much that mommy took the phone away. Apparently laughing too much makes Uncle Tony sick. I'm trying really hard to be less funny.
Sometimes my daddy calls Uncle Tony at work, even when it's really late in California. Uncle Tony works really hard. One time dad said 'he should learn when to quit', and my mom got all kind of sad and quiet. Then my dad looked like he'd eaten the last cookie, and he said sorry and they hugged. Then later they made a plan for us to go see Uncle Tony in vacation.
I don't really know why my Dad was sorry. He and Uncle Tony make fun of each other a lot. One time Uncle Tony messed with daddy's computer so it sounded like a farm whenever he tried to type. It was so funny! Mommy is never hardly ever mean to Uncle Tony. Instead she sends him email every day and missed her birthday party to go to California when he had to go to the hospital. For a couple days daddy thought me and him would go too. But we didn't. I had to go to school and do a math test instead.
Auntie Ziva sometimes says she's surprised that I like Uncle Tony. Apparently little children normally think he's silly. I told her I love Uncle Tony a lot, even when he's silly. We watch cartoons together and sometimes I play at being a detective like he is. He even lets me wear his NCIS hat. When I sit at the computer and pretend to be my mom it makes him smile. One time he even said he wished Gibbs was there to see me. I told him it was okay, that Gibbs was watching me grow up while working on his heaven-boats. Sometimes when it's windy, that's him trying them out on the clouds. He likes to sail towards the horizon because red makes him happy.
Uncle Tony hugged me then and kissed the top of my head. Then he looked at my face – really hard, like I had dirt on it or something – and said I had old eyes. I told him he was just silly, because my eyes were born at the same time as the rest of me.
I saw an eyeball once - a real live one and it was squishy and gross and looked like a peeled grape, and Doctor Jimmy made me swear I wouldn't tell my mom. I think he's a little bit scared of her.
Doctor Jimmy is another friend of my Mom and Dad, but I see him lots more than Uncle Tony and Aunt Ziva. He works right downstairs next to my mom, but I'm not allowed to go into his room – except when my Mom isn't looking. Doctor Jimmy lives with a lady called Breena. She's really nice and wears pretty makeup, but she always smells a bit funny. I like her blonde hair. Doctor Jimmy likes her shoes.
Doctor Jimmy used to work with Ducky, and was there when he went to heaven. Mom says Doctor Jimmy was super brave that day, and that Ducky would be really proud of him now. Sometimes when we talk about Ducky, Doctor Jimmy has to take off his glasses and wipe them on his shirt. I think they must be really smudgy, or his eyes must hurt, because sometimes he has to rub at them too.
I have a real family too - two grandmas and grandpas and an auntie who used to be my daddy's little sister and an uncle who used to be my mommy's little brother. I see them sometimes at Thanksgiving and Christmas but sometimes Dad and Mom have to work. That's when I see my other family. The one who Mom and Dad say haven't got my nose or my eyes or my last names. But they're the ones who bought me books, and clothes and took me to the hospital when I was three and broke my arm. Uncle Tony drove me in his Mustang, which was really shiny and faster than a rocket. Gibbs had told him I shouldn't climb the tree, but he said it was a holiday and I should be allowed to have fun.
When I fell down he used lots of words that I'm not allowed to say.
Some people think family is just the people who have the same blood as you, or the same face or the same name. But I think maybe it's about the people who take you to hospital when you fall out of trees and write you secret coded letters that no one else is allowed to see. It's the people who are busy sailing boats in heaven, but still have time to make sure there are no monsters under my bed at night and that Uncle Tony doesn't catch cold. Family is people who don't just call on your birthday, but on days when they just want to hear your voice.
Even though I don't get to see my family all the time, I still think they're the best family anyone could wish for.
My name is Sylvia Scuito McGee. McGee for my daddy, Scuito for my Mom, and Sylvia just for me.