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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…

steps


The moment arrives, me on my knees with my hands stretched towards her. She leans back against N, her face caught in surprise. I can see the ideas turning over in her, yes, no, yes, no. She stares at me.
I clap my hands together once and then again.
"Come on, come on." I say, laughing, trying to make this into a game.
She looks up at N, her chin all the way to the sky.
N tells her it is ok.
In one movement, her foot lurches forward and then the next. Her hands are waving like she wants to fly not walk. She steps quickly, her face smashing into my chest as she arrives. I am whooping and crowing and she is shouting. I wonder what the neighbors think we are doing in here.
N's face is serene, glowing. She drinks it all in with quiet grace.

V will go back and forth between us, steps growing longer. Her face lights up each time, her little bottom wiggling back and forth. E is watching, leaning on a doorway, lost in thought. I wonder if she is trying to remember her first steps, what she must have been like so many years ago.

I sigh. I breathe in deep, my knees starting to hurt from the hardwood floor. V wants to do it one more time before dinner.





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