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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…

snapshots of an alphabet

I make egg sandwiches with the yellowest of butters slathered across the white toast. We eat quickly, me checking the cold air drifting in the windows as we decide what she will wear today. Then outside, we feel the late summer sun and are stripping off layers of sweatshirts, wiping a quick sweat from our foreheads. E is calm, as this is not her first trip to the recording studio. The first time she was all nerves and excitement, jumping around the escalators in the metro. That was almost a year ago. She plays the result for everyone on our Ipad, over and over. Her voice bursts from the tiny speakers, all crackle and humor, sincere, surprised, utterly specific. I remember that day, as she sat on the tiny stool in the booth that I have recorded in so many times now. Her pigtails poking from her head, the headphones giant on her ears, me inside with her - reading, prepping, directing her.

And now we are back, and she is taller. She does not want to wear the headphones this time - just wants to hear my voice, then take a breath and do her own version. Sometimes she impersonates me. Sometimes she impersonates herself. The words roll off her tongue - mustache so long and the crunch of the "shhhhhhh" hangs in the air. Zebra, so happy, bouncing off the glass window, all "eeeeee".  Nest, and I ask her to close to her eyes, to imagine tiny birds and then to say the word. She does, smiling first, that child's Mona Lisa smile. Flower, and she almost breaks it into two words, flow-wer. The work seems effortless until she stumbles, and then I work with her suddenly caught up in the moment, showing her how closing her mouth finishes a word. She looks up at me with those big brown eyes, satisfied and proud. I am waving my hands around, almost knock over the microphone a few times. This is great fun for both of us.

Not the typical Monday.

She rests, listening to herself. It is time for a box of juice, maybe a cracker. The engineer checks the selected takes. The producer is beaming, making small talk with us. E is a sort of celebrity here. I am her entourage.

And then back to the metro, to buy Legos and dolls with her earnings. The rush, the midday slogs of people in the metro absorbs us. The session is already behind us, done, old news. The day is about other things already.

A manager in the sushi place gives her a little pink doll with a giant head of hair. The food arrives randomly. She squeezes slices of lemon into her water glass, cooking lemonade for imaginary friends.

We sit back in our chairs, our bellies full, our glasses empty. She rests an elbow on the collection of new Legos, the promise of fascinating days ahead of her. I look at the other people eating, scouting the floor for our waitress who has completely disappeared. 

We will walk home now, across the river, the cars roaring on the bridge. We will stop at the playground. There is a birthday party there, a sheep tied to a tree for some reason. Bags of red balloons that will drift up into the sky. E will run over to me, making sure I guard her new toys. She will trot across the dirt and dust, singing to herself. She will wave at me when she is on the swing, showing me what she can do all by herself.


liv said…
A family corroboration! So wonderful to see a child experience a sense of accomplishment. Loved the pictures, especially the last one. Your pride is evident and palpable. Thanks for taking me along.

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