I remember when my niece was born, that I used to catch my dad holding her on the couch, tears seeping out of the tops of his cheeks. No one could hear him; he didn’t produce sound. He just silently wept, overcome with what he was holding.
My friend had a baby and she let me kiss it when it was six days old and I couldn’t believe the privilege. I kept telling everyone. I texted my sister. I texted Nic. “I kissed a fresh new baby,” I told them. I got to get close to something that precious. I held her on my chest for a moment and the sheer rhythm of her breathing calmed my entire body down.
Yesterday, we took a walk in the woods. It was late in the afternoon, with a warm winter sun. When we came across our first bridge, I told Oliver that he should look for the trolls that live underneath of them. He grabbed a stick and began hunting, his intensity honestly a little surprising. He was angry at those non-existent trolls, and he was going to get them.
We passed many people while we were out. The weather was mild and people were enjoying the day. In order to downplay his angry stick-wielding, we divulged his task. “He’s hunting trolls,” we told them. “Don’t worry; we’re on this. The trolls won’t be bothering you today.”
Closing a roundabout, we came upon a family we had already seen at the onset. Two children and their parents. I watched the children dart ahead, after they saw us come though a clearing. And then, I heard them. “DON’T YOU DARE STEP ON OUR BRIDGE, CHILD!” They yelled. “GET OFF OF OUR BRIIIIIIDGE!” Oliver ran towards the bridge, desperate to take out his trolls. Then – I saw their arms reach out to grab him. They were fully committed to their act. They did not back down. Oliver ran screaming, back towards us. Their parents called them off task.
I could not believe it.
I still can’t.
A child’s commitment to a child. A child’s commitment to another child’s fantastic vision.
I bought a hardboiled egg-with-eggplant (what?, I know) sandwich today and as I was picking it up, I watched a woman with dark skin and tired, wise, dark, crinkled eyes swipe her hand across the head of a blonde-haired child that wasn’t her child, and wasn’t her grandchild – but was most certainly hers. She didn’t even swipe it fast, for fear that the mother would see. She almost held it there, above his head, crowning his head with her palm, mid-air.
I felt a rush of air on my face, like an angel was swatting me in the face gently. I had to look away fast as I blinked, blurring the tears in my eyes.
These damn kids. These damn magic kids. My life feels insanely small now. And insanely big. I am sobbing — trying to understand what happened, and how to make sure none of it ever comes undone.
We are – at our root – every bit as beautiful as all those people crying and swiping heads know us to be. Our children are magic. We were once magic. Go back with me.