strangers

Little girl

Tonight you were playing with my boys in the playhouse at the store. I noticed you were watching me more than playing. You kept asking me questions, pretending you didn’t understand what my boys were saying to you, why they weren’t speaking English. I laughed, and feeling conspiratorial, commiserated about how crazy they were being. But I secretly wanted to get on with my shopping and end this long day. Then you popped your head out the window of the playhouse and shattered me.

“You remind me of my mom”

I smiled, and was about to turn away.

“You remind me of my mom. She died.” Then you popped back in the house.

I was at first convinced you were just being morbid, as kids sometimes are, and I looked around for your mom. Then your head popped out the window again, after gaining a bit more courage. “You have hair like hers. They had to cut it off when she got sick and then she died.”

It popped out of your mouth with the blunt matter-of-factness only a 5 year old can have. There was nothing delicate about it, no adult’s finesse to soften it. You were telling me something important and sacred. I don’t know what I said in return. Something wholly inadequate. Something like, “you must miss her a lot, I am so sorry.

You turned away and carried on playing, your moment of remembering over. I saw you later with your dad, I saw you watching me again. I wanted to be your mom. I wanted so badly to just be your mom for a minute, and I wanted to scoop you up like your mom would have. To bury my face in your neck like I do to my boys and swing you around until we were all giggling. I wanted to be a shape shifter, a mind reader, a mystic, whatever it took, so I could be your mom for a minute and do that.

I wanted to do that for you. Obviously, your world is upside down and it is on your mind enough that you want to talk to strangers about it, enough that you are seeing your mom in places she’s not. That’s as normal as it gets in this mess. You are coping. Children are resilient, and not afraid to feel out loud, no matter how loud it is. But I wanted to give you a moment of relief, and that cocooned, snug, safe feeling from Before It Happened.

But more, I wanted to do that for your mom. I know she didn’t want last time to be the last time she did that. I know she wanted to be the one you peppered with questions as she shopped. I know she wanted so much more. I know she’s glad to be remembered by you, and to see you out in the world. Little girl, your mom is everywhere in all the good things in this life.

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