I show them video, pictures online, of children their age, children like them, hair a little more wiry, skin burnished by sun and years. They are covered in dust, scrapes and bandages, their eyes shell shocked and hollow, gasping ghosts.
See? I tell them. They could be you. This could be us. Be grateful. Love what you have. They are no different from you.
Vivian wraps her arms around me, while Rosalyn leans into my throat, her arm reaching out to flip through the pictures, these children so much the same as her, stopping on the face of a 5 year old who stares up into nothing.
I place my hand on Vivian’s head, her soft hair under my fingers, golden flax. This is where your money is going Vivian, the money you were so willing to part with. These children-they need food, they need water, they need homes. Unspoken are the words they need their parents. But no money can give them that, and she knows this. Her eyes hollow out for a moment and I know she knows this.
Sometimes my 6 year old sees the world better than I ever have.
A friend visits. She brings beer, my favorite, and cupcakes. I feel warm and loved and cared for and I want to hug her even more, even as she says I’m gonna hug you even if you don’t want me too. I know you hate them. I wonder to myself, do I still hate to be touched?
I realize I don’t. That I crave this simplicity now, this closeness. I sigh, deep inside me, and let go a breath I’ve been holding for more years than I can count.
We talk. If I’m honest, I’d say I do most of the talking, but I hear her too. She talks of the love for her niece, the niece replacing her daughters, the ones she’ll never have. Her eyes light, tiny stars aglow in her soft face. She asks me how i know I’m doing the right thing, how I don’t second guess myself all day long.
You don’t. I tell her. You can’t.
But also-I don’t remember the 4000 ways in which my mother likely told me the wrong thing-in ignorance, in jest, in impatience and frustration. I remember that she loved me. That she was always there, and I always knew.
And I know it doesn’t really matter.
I could second guess my every move, fill them full of organic food, montessori thoughts, only allow them access to classical music and the odd Sarah Harmer song. I could control their lives, and mold them to me. I could bend their will.
Except I can’t. I can’t completely stop the world-heart attacks happen, earthquakes happen. Nasty teachers happen. Wonderful, kind people happen. And these things all make up the people we are, and the people we will be.
The oddest things shaped me. The kind Jamaican man who picked me up while hitchhiking, chastised me for doing so, fed me at McDonalds despite my protests, and made me promise to call him when I got home, how his wife would never forgive him if he didn’t make sure a young girl was safe. I never called him. But he impressed upon me the importance of doing the right thing just for that reason. Because it is right and good.
Guiding my sick mother through a pot hole filled driveway one dark Friday night, holding her arm. Learning humility, and the courage it takes to rely on someone else.
Just noticing the golden light at the end of the day, and how it makes my heart hurt just so.
If I open my eyes, in just the right ways, life gives me so much.
I go for a walk, enjoying a new freedom, a sunny winter day, music in my ears, the story being weaved in my head. The fabric store looms, and I decide this weekend will be THE weekend to learn how to sew.
My hands list through rolls of poplin, fleece, flannel, cotton. The smell returns, of linen and corduroy, of windless rooms and beautiful things created from flat nothingness. I feel her with me, her solid sense, the magic in her hands as fabric became something lovely, something that flowered and flowed on a body. I stood still, and breathed her in, practical, magical her. I rub my hands over the cheap flannel I’m buying, black with white skulls, and I can imagine her here, with my daughters, with her granddaughters, laughing at me, as I curse and swear at bobbins and thread that won’t stay. I see her smile, and my heart bends a little.
I pick up a spool of thread, and realize, I have to make something on my own.
Her benediction in change. My need for her, all these years later, sated in cotton and wool.