Closing my eyes, I sit cross-legged on the purple suede cushion, and I wonder, what would she think of me?
The room is dimmed, I've lit several candles, the bungalow is clean and I have fed myself. I begin to walk back, and I begin to call her name...
She is my truest, fiercest, and wildest self. My most passionate and strong, most free and deep of heart self. I hear her funny giggle.
I can see her standing before me now. She is happier than she knows, she is smiling brightly and her eyes speak the wishes of her beginning life.
What does she think of the young woman sitting across from her?
She would love my hair; so incredibly long and shimmering. Honey colored tresses tinted by the summer sun. Not a touch of dye. She was very against hair dye! And she always loved the word “tresses”. It meant more than hair to her, it meant elegance, and natural splendor.
I know she would be shocked by the tattoos, but of course would play it off as if she had expected it. She was princess of the calm response to things calculated to surprise her. She always seemed to expect the unexpected, enjoying her ability to calmly hear exciting news that would have overwhelmed other girls. Her sense of superiority is something I am still struggling to squash...
Yes, I think she would pretend to know all along we would get tattoos, but secretly be horrified… Until she saw the potential of uniqueness, the very us-ness in them, and then she would be proud. She would remind herself that Viking maidens of old were said to have tattoos. As long as she can equate something with a noble thing in past history, she is all in!
I wish I could tell her it's okay not to know everything before it's told to her. I so wish I could make her rest in the knowledge that it’s not a win or lose, and she won’t lose by not knowing. She wouldn’t listen. I still don’t know it. I still have to be calm, to be aware and to be in control. I must take deep breaths and tell myself over and over, no one's opinion of your intelligence is of any matter to you, my love.
What else would she think of me?
She would be impressed with my woman's body. She would be kinder to it than I am now. She would see the lovely curves and the soft skin and think how nice it will look carrying a baby one day. She would ask about that too… Babies? When will they come?
She didn’t ever think that much about them to be honest. I know some maybe thought she did… She only thought of them late at night, when she was falling asleep, sometimes she would cradle her arms just so, as if a tiny babe was lying there. She would sooth the baby to sleep, and so, too, be soothing herself into rest. I do it still.
She would ask why they aren’t here yet. I would say, “I don’t know. I want them. It's about money, of course.” She would nod wisely, of course, money. She knew about money before I did, back during the war we survived with our sisters, and the prison we escaped, and the wounded knights we healed out in the woods. My lord, but we had adventures. Such exciting, tragic things happened to her. I wonder why so tragic?
She would be glad to know how much mom and dad really do love her. She always worried. I would tell her all the things they did for us, and how they still love us even though we’re different and not perfect.
Oh! And I must tell her the old horrible “empty” feeling is gone. Well not gone, just different, more manageable. And it doesn’t come as often. That’s good news, good to tell her. And I would tell her how all the big feelings she feels, how they are her superpower, although she wouldn’t like the word “superpower.” They are her magic! And they will listen to her more than she has to listen to them, eventually.
What does she say to me?
She would LOVE my jewelry! Oh my god, she would just love it! She wouldn’t believe her eyes, all these pretty elegant rings and charms and earrings for us?! And the clothes! She would love them too! Not the pants of course. My truest self NEVER wore pants. Uhg! Yuck! She would want to know how I could stand them! I’d tell her it took a long time… Not till high school, and then only for a little while. But then leggings started coming out in really nice day-to-day fabrics and she would like it better! Freedom in a way! She won’t believe me of course, but it doesn’t matter.
She wouldn’t really care about the make-up, not yet.
She would wonder about my work… We might argue about it. I tell her taking care of other people’s children pays really well, and I am good at running a house and feeding them and giving them structure and fun crafts, and I love them!
She would agree of course that we’re very good at these things, but she would point out, rightly so, we wanted to be a writer, a fighter, to go to war!
She dreams of looking up, her eyes narrow slits of righteous fury, making the earth turn on its axis a little faster and changing the world one noble, bright act at a time!
I cry at this. I still want it. I still want to do the big, bright, colorful things.
She tells me to go back to art. Do more of that. And write another play!
She asks about him… Is he in love with you? Yes. Does he think you’re beautiful? Yes. But I think I’m beautiful and that is best. Is he like daddy? No, and yes. In the depths of his heart, he is alike. His life is unfolding now, with me.
“Do you still worry? You know… Do you still worry about being good?”
“Yes, although I don’t use the word good anymore. I use words like failure. Horrible word! Try not to use it too much. Remember, it does not define you! You see this tattoo here on my right wrist saying love well? I just got it, because in a few more years Dad, is going to tell you something very important. You’re going to call him after just starting a new job. You will say how you feel like a failure and you don’t know if you’re doing the right thing.
He’s going to say this: "You know Haddie, the older I get, the more I think, all that really matters, all that I leave behind, is that I love well and I let myself be loved well."
We both take a deep shuddering sigh of relief.
“That’s good.” She says. I nod and put my arms around her and I can feel her discomfort under my embrace. I know what she’s feeling; the vague thought that she shouldn’t get a hug. That she doesn’t deserve one. I pull back and look right into our eyes.
“That goes away too, baby. You’ll know you deserve to be held. You’re going to let yourself be loved much better.” She shakes her head, angry that I know why she wants to punch me in the gut for holding her. Then she nods, and tosses her hair back, pushing the heels of her hands into her eyes, wiping away stinging hot tears.
I want to say one more thing, I want to tell her to eat well, too... I want to tell her not to throw up, or eat too little. But she's not there yet, she won't be for another year or so, and she's so perfect.
I've fought the battle well enough, she will too.
Suddenly, she asks about the night. Do I still go out into it? Do I still pray to the stars and howl at the moon?
“Sometimes… I’ll do it more, I promise.”
“But do you dance in the night!?” She insists.
“No,” I say sadly.
“Do it,” she says, now with her eyes on fire and her little hands gripping mine. “Don’t stop.”
I smile, okay.
“You are barefoot often?”
“Good.” She nods again, content.
And then we dance.
I take off my silly shoes and socks and I put on a swirly skirt and we turn out the lights, only the candles and some drumming music with us. The windows are thrown open wide, to invite the velvet air of night to the party, and we begin to spin. I watch her and remember the steps of my heart.
We dance together just the way we did under the willow tree and into the woods. Our sisters and we, how we swayed and pounded and laughed! Then we would take off running up the quiet suburban street, shouting and shrieking with the joy of doing such a wild thing, when all other children were tucked safely into bed. We made shadow maidens in the light of the street lamps. Never were there three little girls so beautiful as us and we were so filled with a mighty power and a feeling as to be intoxicated by it. We run back to the yard and the willow and out of the wild wood of magical nights. Up the porch steps and into the golden warmth of home, where we have tea to sip and cushions to lie on, and giggle our way to the deepest sleep I've ever had.
I dance with my younger, truest self, and she smiles up into my face. She trusts me and knows we will be happy, all in time to the same exact heartbeat.