Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Through a Glass Darkly

Slowly she seeped into my awareness, until the sight of her filled my soul with wonder and the world, for a moment, stopped. The first thing I noticed was the color of her hair, like hayfields in the rain, then it's texture, fine, loose, wisps and waves slipping out of the pink bow perched on the back of her head. I've seen hair exactly like that in fading photographs. Then the size of her, the awkward slimness and smallness, head not reaching her father's waist as she stood by his side, shifting weight from one foot to the other. The longness of her still face, the high smooth forehead, the wide, solemn eyes, a spirit contained, quiet, thoughtful, in spite of the nervous, restless motion that set her hair swaying across her shoulders with the regular beat of a clock pendulum.

Seeing her during mass, standing in the front row of chairs with her family, her image expanded, unfocused, shifted in my mind, resolved and slipped again like a kaleidoscope into a hundred frozen moments from the pictures in our old family albums. That elfin little blond girl across the chapel was the image of me, twenty-five years ago.

I couldn't take my eyes off of her. I wanted to reach out and pull her to me, stoop down and gaze into those eyes and find myself again. Find the child I was, the dreams I had. Find the things that sometimes seem lost, though I've worked hard to keep so many things that make a child a child, but don't keep a woman from being a woman. Hope, wonder, trust. I know they're still here inside my heart, but not the way they were, and I wanted to hear her speak and drink them in her voice.

But for all I may have lost, and I'm not convinced I have, seeing her there thrilled me with a sense of excitement to think of all I've gained and grown to be since I was her. The things I've done, the things I've learned, the things I love about life and myself that I never dreamed as a child. Every beginning, and I'm standing at the edge of a beginning with my move to New Orleans... every beginning is a new childhood, a chance to turn back time and approach a new world as a new person. I feel myself as an extension of her, as a maturing tree stands straight in the same spot as the sapling it once was, only with more layers, thicker foliage, deeper roots. I haven't changed as much as you'd think. I'm only reaching out farther, all the time, and learning that I can bend and grow into that reach without breaking off and falling away.

Time resumed and she slipped away from me, still standing there rocking gently from one foot to the other, but she was herself and I was me again. I wished a little that I could approach her, take her hands and smile at her, give the vision back to her, though it's better that I can't. Who would want to project themselves onto the future of a child? Who could presume to so limit it? For her the possibilities for the years she'll traverse before she comes to where I am are still endless, and what a treasure that is.

But for me the treasure is the truth she gave to me, as my eyes traced and reveled in the uncanny resemblance, over and over again, with wonder.

I am still a child, and the possibilities are still endless

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