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you are not there

We are taking the little one for a ride on her new sled. It is bright orange, with a fuzzy black and white seat cover to keep her extra warm. Her tiny hands in tiny gloves hold the sides as tight as she can. I pull her down a path, shouting "woohooo" and then she replies "woohoo". N's turn is next, pulling her more schoolgirl than mother for a few minutes. There are other parents with children on sleds passing us. Their eyes straight forward, faces completely blank they slip by in silence. I flash a smile to them, and they do not even look at me. I am not there, just another tree leaning towards the stream that runs below.

There are ducks still, flapping around the brackish water and we throw pieces of stale bread to them. I start to think, not about the complete absence of smiles in this culture. I stopped asking about that long ago, told over and again that smiles are reserved for home, behind closed doors. But I wonder, for the children -  these wiggling bu…

close to Garfield, off of Prospect Park

E is asking me a lot of questions these days, like what is inside the moon. Walking home from school, clutching my hand as she slips on the ice every few meters we discuss astrology, chemistry and the ingredients for tiramisu. She likes to ask me what I was like when I was four, or five or seven.

My brother and I had a babysitter named Adrianne, a student of my father's from one of his drawing classes. She had long, straight dark hair and a magnificent nose in the center of her face, as I liked to think of it. Adrianne smelled of lemons, and fresh soap. She knew how to make the best shake-n-bake chicken, and her brother wore giant bellbottom sailor pants, with about a million buttons on them. We played a lot with wooden toys and marbles.

She turned the living room into a great white cloth-draped fortress with us one long afternoon, and we watched Yellow Submarine in the soft light inside it, on the tiny TV in the corner.

We left Brooklyn when I was five. On our last afternoon together she brought us to a wet piece of sidewalk. We forced our hands into the fresh cement, then scrawling our initials with a bottle cap. In my imagination, this tiny artifact still exists, somewhere close to Garfield, off of Prospect Park.

When I told this to E, she stopped in the street, her breath forming wet clouds around her. She stared at me, fiercely.

"It's still there, Pop." She said.

She rested her mittened hand on my shoulder.
She nodded once.
I nodded back.
She let out a deep breath.

Later, we made tiramisu.


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