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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45 comments

  1. As a mom, it must be hard for you to think of children without one. The matter of factness in her statement shows how resilient children are. They say the truth, even when it’s hard because it’s better than not saying it. It’s wonderful you gave her that moment.

    1. It’s a shame we lose that ability, really. I wonder if an adult had noticed the same thing, would they have said something? Probably not. And we would have missed out on something important, I think.

  2. It is poignant, sad and yet so unfortunately real….wish things like this never happened ..but it does….hope this girl has a very happy life…you wrote this beautifully Jen …..

    1. Juno! I love hearing from you. I too hope this little girl goes on to have a happy life. She was a plucky little thing, so I have a feeling she’ll be alright. Kids have incredible means of just stopping us in our tracks sometimes though, today was one of those days.

  3. Wow… Instead of the laugh i expected when seeing mail from you, it made me cry a little…you wrote it down beautiful!

  4. How heart-wrenching. It’s moments like that when we feel helpless. Life can be so unfair, as it was for that little girl. Takes a lot to crack my tough exterior, but your beautiful post just did.

    1. It is unfair, but in a way it’s also incredibly reassuring to know that even in the worst case the kids will be alright. I was really amazed at that plucky little girl. I still want to give her a big fat hug though.

  5. Me, too, Jen. It touches my soul. And I have no doubt that your love and compassion reached that little girl in a way beyond words. Sometimes, it’s the unspoken that counts the most.

    1. I felt like she was just looking for a little mothering herself, and I wish I could have done more. Whatever she recognized, I am glad that she still has such strong impressions of her mom and I hope she carries that with her.

  6. This brought a little early morning tear to my eye. I’m sure she will be just fine, but God it sucks that any baby has to lose his/her mom. It sucks that any mom has to leave her baby. It’s one of my biggest fears, and my heart hurts a little bit when I remember that it was probably one of her mom’s biggest fears, too.

    1. I think that’s what hit me so hard as well; but it was somehow reassuring to see her carrying on and her doing alright. But oh god, it hurts to even think about being separated from my kids at such a young age.

  7. So many of the previous comments hit on everything I am thinking and feeling. Heart broken for the little girl and so sad knowing her mother knew she was going to die and leave that little girl behind – and the enormity of that. I see it with my daughter, i was teasing last night about running away and B (my daughter) fell apart – as it was really happening. It sent me on a horrible downward spiral of what if she has some intuition that I am going to leave too soon. How will she cope. The fears are paralyzing. So thank you for a good cry and I hope in some way it comforted that little girl to see you.

    1. I think it’s a mother’s second greatest fear; beyond having a child go, which is too much to even mention. As I said in other comments though, it was strangely reassuring to know that she was ok, and her life was carrying on. Kids do alright I think because they don’t try and be anything but sad when they feel sad, and they let the feeling stay until they’re done with it.

  8. Oh, what a beautiful post, Jen. How heart wrenching to watch and talk to this little girl, since you can’t bring what she needs most, her mother. Kids don’t over/understate things, it just is. Maybe she needed you that day she bumped into you.

  9. I lost a good friend a few months ago. He left behind a 4 and a 6 year old. They just didn’t understand that daddy was that sick and one day, he would not be there. He had been sick for so long, they just thought that was normal. So today, reading this…it all came flooding back, the funeral, their smiles as so many of their friends were sharing in a moment, not quite understanding why we were all so sad.

    It is times like these that we are so thankful for back pain, the melting humidity, being frustrated by your child asking you for the 50th time to get her some orangina, or can I watch a show on your iPad…Steven would love to be alive and be bothered by the mundane realities of life.

    So beautifully told. Thanks again.

    1. I am so sorry to hear about your friend’s passing, and I agree that brushes with death make us appreciate or at least not be annoyed by all the small things in life. It’s funny that life works that way, but I am glad for the reminders sometimes because I would hate to look back and have missed out on all those things.
      I am sure it was comforting to his kids to see all of their loved ones together, and hopefully that community is a support for them as they grow.

  10. The stark reality of facts is not lost on children — I think as we get older we lose this ability to connect with reality but not have the urge to need to change it.
    This was a lovely post – and I’m so glad you could be there for that little girl. In some ways, seeing you could be a comforting reminder that she was okay and that she was loved, even if her mom was no longer there. Makes you feel weepy for all the feelings she may have as she gets older.

    1. So true, as adults we have the benefit of knowing what’s ahead, but that’s not always the best thing. It allows us to invest too much time and energy trying to control the future rather than just dealing with our present circumstances.

    1. I know, it’s just too much to think about. In a very strange way it was reassuring to think that “oh, life does go on” though. It does, it’s just wildly different and maybe not what you planned for.

  11. You have a beautiful way of writing. I could have almost been you in this situation. My boys play in the playhouse all the time at the store, and I just imagined being in your shoes. I always think of the fear of losing my children (and like you mentioned, it’s too hard to even think of), but I’ve never really thought much about how difficult it would be to know that I was leaving them. At least not until I read this.
    Like so many other people said, you probably gave something to that girl in the store, just by being there and talking to her.

    1. Of all the worries that I worry on a daily basis, I rarely think about what life would be like if I wasn’t here. It made me want to do everything I can to stay with them and stop worrying about the little annoyances.

  12. What a moving post. I felt gobsmacked with cruel reality reading this tale Jen. My heart goes out to this kid, too, because I am sure that although her mom is gone, since she is left behind, she is looking for her. It’s just so sad even tough as nails me feels moved. It sounds healthy to me that she does not have inhibitions about speaking her mind. Maybe that’s a good coping mechanism even if it shocked you — and your readers. I hope she’s okay, too. I also hope that her dad is giving her double hugs.

    1. Hi V! I haven’t been keeping up on the blog reading, but I am glad to see you here. Gobsmacked is the perfect word for how I felt too. It did strike me as remarkably healthy to just state her feelings. I have no context for how long it’s been, or anything like that, but it’s reassuring to see kids be alright in the wake of such things. I think we lose too much of that growing into adults.

  13. I’m checking out your blog via an enthusiastic recommendation from Le Clown. I was laughing, nodding my head in recognition of a kindred spirit (straining the broken glass out of the wine? Been there.) …and then stumbled upon this gem. I’m holding my little girl in my lap as I read, and it just absolutely killed me. Beautiful, evocative writing. I’m your new biggest fan.

    1. Thank you, my dear. I have also read through your blog and become a big fan of yours although Christmas left me in such a weakened mental state that I am completely out of words for intelligent comments. Welcome though, it is nice that our paths have crossed.

    1. Geek Love was at the behest of the beautiful and talented Sara, also known as the Ringmistress, or the hot broad that keeps Le Clown in line. I owe those two more than I care to admit.

      1. Oh, I’m sure Eric has an abacus where he tallies up all his good deeds and favors. I haven’t talked to Sara, but she seems very cool. Le Clown will forever be remembered as my first blogger friend.

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