Friday, March 1, 2013

A Little Girl

I saw her for the second time today.  This time, as last time, I noticed her bright, cheerful smile as she ran around seemingly unconcerned and unaware of her greater surroundings just like any other happy, excited child.  I guessed her to be somewhere in between Hallie and Hanna in age.  She looked out at the world through clear blue eyes, and I hoped she would never lose that look of innocence.  The look of simple humility, that is born not out of any effort to be humble, but merely because pride had never yet entered in.

Her hair today was pulled back in a neat ponytail, just as it was that other time I saw her.  The hair she had left, that is.

Her movements were stiff and somewhat awkward, as if her body wasn't completely sure what it was or was not capable of doing.

She only has half of an ear left.  The rest of her face tells the story of what happened to her hair, her eyebrows, her ear.  It tells the story, but it does not tell it well.  It leaves you only with the overall understanding of what must have happened, but no details to satisfy - how could a tiny little girl like that have been so horribly, horribly burned?

My first reaction upon seeing her was physical.  My stomach began turning in knots at the evidence of all that pain, so much pain on such a very small body.  How could a tiny little body like that absorb so much pain?

My next reaction was emotional.  My heart began crying at the thought of it, imagining my little girls screaming - screaming - screaming day after day, night after night, and me unable to comfort, unable to soothe, unable to explain why the very gentlest of air on the face was a force of blistering agony.

My next reaction was "don't stare at her", but almost in the same space of thought was, "but when you do look at her, make sure you look at her like you would look at any other happy child."

And so I watched her out of the corner of my eye, waiting for that moment when she would look at me and I could smile at her and show her that I was one of those people that could look at her and treat her the same as anyone.  But of course, as it turns out, that is still pretty much exactly the same thing as staring.

We shared the same space for quite some time this morning, and she came right up next to me as she played, standing at the same large play space as Heather.  I kept hoping she would look at me so I could give her my best "aren't you a cute little girl?" smile, the one I use at the park or the library or any other place where I run into cute little girls who are drawn to play with Heather like penguins are drawn to ice cubes.  And in that space of time as she jumped and ran and played around the room, completely oblivious to all adults there, I began to worry not so much about my reaction, but about the possible reaction of daughters.

What do I say, if Hallie and Hanna notice her, and ask in that loud voice of the not yet socially aware, "what's wrong with her face, mommy?"  What do I say when everyone in the room turns their ears to listen to me, even as they simultaneously avert their eyes so as not to be caught looking at me.  Every answer I came up with felt so very much like it would be the wrong answer.*

I just wanted to pull that little girl on my lap and say, "I see your happy smile.  I see your pretty eyes.  I see your neat ponytail, how do you keep it so neat?  I see your purple pants, and I wish I had some just like that."  I wanted to say all those things to her, and I wanted to hug her tightly and hold her close in advance of all the times when other people won't, when other children run from her.

5 comments:

  1. Touching. For a minute I thought I was on a cookie blog, can't wait to try some new recipes. Keep 'em coming. I want to make a quite book with mama Boling!

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  2. Hopefully this little girl will have some good people in her life that will remind her that she is more than product of physical features. Everyone deserves to really know that for themselves whether or not they are outwardly beautiful to the world or not. Great post!

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  3. Beautiful post, Ames. And I know exactly what you mean. I was in an elevator the other day with someone with Down Syndrome, and I wanted desperately to show her some friendliness to try and make up for all of the people who don't.

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