By Linda Porter Carlyle
Hannah Maria Estevez raced into the kitchen. “I can’t find my ball!” Hannah exclaimed. “Do you know where it is?”
“Which ball?” Mama answered, spooning applesauce into Baby Paulo’s mouth.
“My pink one with stars on it,” Hannah said. “The one I bought with my own money.”
“Hmm,” Mama said, scraping applesauce off Baby Paulo’s little chin and putting it back into his mouth. “Why don’t you play with one of your other balls?”
“I don’t have other balls,” Hannah said.
“Are you kidding?” Mama asked, aiming another spoonful of applesauce at Baby Paulo’s mouth. “You have a basketball. You have tennis balls. You have a beach ball. You have a jacks ball.”
“I don’t want to play with those balls!” Hannah protested. “My pink ball bounces higher than any other ball. And Rachael likes playing with it best.”
“Have you looked in your bedroom?” Mama asked.
“Yes!” Hannah wailed. “It’s not there!”
“Did you look under the bed?” Mama asked. “And in the back of the closet?”
“Yes!” Hannah insisted. “It’s not there! It’s gone! And I paid six whole dollars for it!”
Mama scraped applesauce off Baby Paulo’s fat cheeks and put it back in his mouth. “I can’t help you look for it right now,” she said. “I’m busy, as you can see. Did you look on the back porch?”
Hannah scurried through the kitchen. She opened the back door and glanced around the covered porch. There was no pink ball anywhere in sight. There were no balls on the back porch at all. She slammed the door.
“It’s not on the porch,” she told Mama. “I can’t find it anywhere!”
Mama put the last of the applesauce in the little spoon. “Well, I don’t think it’s in my bedroom,” she said. “And I don’t think it’s in the bathroom. Did you look in Baby Paulo’s room? Did you look behind Papa’s big chair in the living room?”
Hannah hurried off. “It’s not in here!” she hollered from Baby Paulo’s room.
Mama washed Baby Paulo’s sticky face. She kissed his sweet forehead and then picked him up out of his high chair.
“Mama-mama-ma,” Baby Paulo squealed.
Mama laughed and kissed the baby’s nose. “I’ll put Baby Paulo down for his nap. Then I’ll help you look for it,” she said.
Hannah watched Mama put a clean diaper on the baby. She watched her pull down the shade to cover the window. She watched her lay Baby Paulo in his crib.
Baby Paulo promptly grabbed the bars of the crib and pulled himself upright. “Mama-mama-ma!” he sang happily. “Mama-mama-mama-ma!”
Mama turned off the bedroom light and shut the door. “I’ll help you look for your ball now,” she whispered to Hannah.
Mama went into Hannah’s bedroom. She looked under the bed. She looked in the back of the closet. She looked under the desk. She looked in the chest where Hannah kept her oldest toys. “You’re right,” she said. “I don’t think your ball is in here.”
Hannah rubbed the back of her hand across her eyes. “I love that ball!” she said. “I paid for it with my own money! It’s the best ball I ever had!” She sniffled.
“Let’s keep looking,” Mama said. “Go look in the living room again.”
Hannah scuffed down the hall. She stood in the middle of the room and looked around. The ball wasn’t behind Papa’s chair—she’d already looked there three times. It was too big to roll under the couch. She got down on her knees. The ball wasn’t stuck under the old rocking chair either. Hannah sighed and stood up. Then she blinked. She looked again in the shadowy place between the edge of the piano and the wall. There it was!
“I found it!” she shouted.
“Sh!” Mama cautioned, coming into the living room with her finger over her smiling lips. “Don’t wake up your brother!”
“I found it! I found it!” Hannah shouted in a whisper.
“I’m sure glad!” Mama said.
“May I go play with Rachael?” Hannah asked.
“Sure,” Mama agreed.
“Rachael will be so happy I found it!” Hannah said as she skipped out the front door.