Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Someone to hold her hand

Her 5th deviled egg
My daughter Elvira brought over my granddaughter Coraline, who turned 2 last week (and insists she's 5), about noon today to spend the day and the night. We had a busy day. We started by making deviled eggs for lunch. I keep up a running commentary as I cook or make food with Coraline now. It's like I've got my own Food Network show, and she's the only one in the studio audience. "And now we finish with just a sprinkle of smoked paprika to complement the tang of the mustard and the creaminess of the eggs...."

After lunch we threw the ball for Kohl, the granddog, watered the tomatoes, read a bunch of books, sat on the potty a dozen times both with and without success, and took a nap. The nap was for my benefit.

Then we headed over to a local botanical garden that has a big, creative play area for kids with lots of water features, sand boxes, fairy houses, caves, edible plants, and bees. We spent several hours there exploring and discovering things like snails and pale blue dragonflies and sensitive plants.

Back home we got into dry clothes, grilled some chicken and corn on the cob for dinner, and then took Kohl for a long walk as dusk fell, talking about the meaning of red and yellow and green lights, and when to walk and when to wait. A big bowl of homemade yogurt with blueberries, an apple, and about 30 books later, it was 11:30 and Coraline was fighting sleep. She missed her mommy, and wasn't ready for the day to end.

She didn't want to be held or rocked, so she tossed and rolled on my bed trying to get comfortable as I sang to her. Finally I persuaded her to lie still, close her eyes and just hold my hand as I sang the same song over and over.

Like a ship in the harbor,
Like a mother and child,
Like a light in the darkness
I'll hold you a while.
We'll rock on the water,
And I'll cradle you deep,
And hold you while angels fairies
Sing you to sleep.

As her muscles relaxed and her breathing slowed, I lay on my side facing her, her tiny hand curled around my fingers, and watched her give in to her dreams. And as I did, I saw superimposed over her small arm the arm of a much older woman -- a woman even older than I am. The arm of the woman she will be decades from now.

I thought of the times she had trusted my hands just today -- the many times when she reached out without looking as she navigated a long, man-made stream studded with rocks, knowing my hand would be there for her to grasp so she wouldn't fall; when she rested her head in my hand as I lathered up her hair and sprayed it clean over the kitchen sink; when she touched the hot, foil-wrapped corn after I told her it was hot, and I grabbed her hand and held it to a cool dishcloth to dissipate the pain; when I lifted her over a toilet that seems big enough to swallow her up because she likes using my potty ... when she fell asleep missing her mom and sleeping in my big bed instead of her own.

And I offered up a prayer to whomever may or may not be listening for that woman of the future. I prayed that she would remember the feeling of someone holding her hand and loving her as completely and fiercely as is humanly possible -- because I do, just like I have loved her mother and her uncle.

I prayed that all the nights she falls asleep snuggled up to her mommy's breast or curled up next to her daddy's side or holding my hand while I sing to her will stay with her like a warm, soft invisible cloak that she can fold around herself whenever she needs comfort, even after her arms are mottled with age spots and her skin has grown thin and wrinkled, and my ashes have long since been spread in someone's garden ... or lost if I know my kids.

That, I think, would be more important than knowing how to make deviled eggs and studying the mating habits of dragonflies, learning to pee on a toilet and that yellow means "be careful." 

Although those things are certainly important too.


  1. This made me get all teary. So beautiful. <3

    1. Thank you, AutoD. When I wrote it, it just seemed like a stream of consciousness, end-of-the-day ramble. But quite a few people commented on Facebook. I guess we'd all like an invisible cloak .... and if not that, we'd like to pass one on to our babies.

  2. Beautiful. I never had that invisible cloak, not really. But I suppose I had enough of it, patchwork style, to know it could exist in a less unraveled form. I had enough to try to offer that to my own kids and grandkids, too. Thank you. Just beautiful.

  3. Thanks, Kathy. No, I don't have a whole cloak either, but my kids do, and Coraline will. That's what I can control.