violetcheetah: (chess)
Tani's sister, upon reading the piece I wrote about him, unsurprisingly requested I write a story about her. This was what poppped into my head.

-----

We went to Roger Williams Zoo fairly often, Heather and Tani and Alissa and me, but this was our first time at Southwick's Zoo, three days before Lis's fifth birthday. It was a pretty average zoo trip: the kids going back and forth between excitement over something new, disappointment over much-anticipated animals not being as much fun as they'd hoped, a couple of mini-meltdowns from overstimulation, and of course begging. There are a lot of novel things to buy at zoos, presented in ways that are irresistible to children: food, stuffed animals, other toys, t-shirts.

Heather has pretty remarkable willpower, though, so generally with her kids the begging and bargaining goes on long enough to be kinda sit-com funny and strangely comforting, but not so drawn-out that it's like one of those SNL skits that never ends. And she did allow certain indulgences; it's a zoo, after all, and a day to spoil the kids a little. Lis had her first sno-cone, I remember, and was highly pleased when I had her look at her now-blue tongue in a mirror. And Heather told them early on that they each got one and only one "big" thing. So each time we passed, say, a kid-sized roller coaster, or a pony ride, and the kids begged, Heather said, "Well, you can decide at the end of the day whether that's your big thing, or that other thing is."

Lis's final decision was the pony ride. It was just a circle with about four ponies, sort of a live carousel, but without the flashy lights or jangly music or bright paint that would attract most children. The ponies just sedately walked around a circle, each one led by a worker holding a lead rope, although I don't think the workers were necessary; the ponies knew the deal, and seemed pretty content with their jobs. I was surprised she chose something that seemed so mundane, and I was dreading the meltdown of disappointment once it was over and she realized she'd blown her "big" thing while Tani had chosen the roller coaster.

Then the worker set her on the back of the pony. -Her- pony, at least for that five minutes. Her eyes were wide, her shoulders raised with the tension of a held breath. I remembered the first time I'd been on a horse's back, twice her age but still young enough to be both giddy and afraid of the power of the animal beneath me, power that was almost mine but not quite. I'd been astride, but it was the horse's choice to allow it, and I'd been humbled and proud at the same time that he'd allow me to borrow his power. I don't know that Lis felt any of that, but she was obviously not going to be disappointed.

What I remember most was her laugh. The entire time she was on that pony, she laughed in a way I'd never heard her laugh, never heard any kid laugh. It wasn't a high-pitched giggle, or brief loud shrieks. It was low, almost guttural, barely audible from where I stood 15 feet away, a series of five or six quick, soft tuts, dove-like, then an inhale and five or six more. It made me think of the bass line of a piece of music, a monotone you don't pay much attention to, but that is a necessary foundation to the whole piece. I couldn't hear the rest of the music, but I could see it on her face. There was a symphony of emotions within her, and clearly it was exactly the song she wanted to hear.

Once it was over, she of course asked if she could have another ride. Of course Heather said no, because those were the rules. I was surprised that Lis didn't protest, but she just sighed, still smiling with the melancholy contentment of someone much older than not-quite-five.



A child

Jun. 16th, 2013 10:49 am
violetcheetah: (chess)
Another piece from a Write Here Write Now workshop. There is no deeper meaning to my posting it on Fathers Day.


-----

I don't like children. I was a child, and when I was a child, children made my life hell. Well, adults did, too, but that was expected. When I'm with children, I expect them to say something aloud that I always think everyone around me is too polite to say, and it isn't that I can't bear that they are -thinking- it, I just dread the awkwardness after it's released from their mouth, the mother shushing them and saying, "We don't say things like that out loud."

My friend Heather called one day, and after a few minutes of small talk, she said, "Well, I'm finally pregnant." I blurted out the first thing that came into my head, which would have been bad with pretty much anyone else I knew because it would have been "Oh God," but with heather it was "thank god."

When Tani was about 18 months old, she asked if I'd be interested in baby-sitting him one evening a week while she and her husband took a literature class together. It was about two years after I started the drug cocktail that calmed my PTSD and lifted my depression, and these days I felt like I did a pretty good job of passing as normal, but I was still passing. "You seriously trust me with your progeny?" She glared at me over her glasses, an "Oh please" look, but there was a split second before she rolled her eyes when I saw something. She did. She trusted me. She knew everything about me, about who I had been, and she's not a fool, and she trusted me with her child.

My "shifts" with him started after dinner was over, so it was pretty much just: play with him for a couple of hours, change him into pajamas, and gently bear-hug him on the couch for fifteen minutes until he went from wailing, "No no no" to rubbing his eyes to sleep. Playing with him turned out to be easy. Mostly, I built towers out of blocks, and he knocked them down. We could do that for an entire evening sometimes. Sometimes he'd reach out after the third level and shove, sometimes he'd wait patiently, his head cocked, perhaps curious about some pattern of blocks I was using.

One night, he wandered away while I was still constructing. He'd never done that before, and I felt a little pang, wondering if the last time had truly been the last time we'd play this game. But I kept adding levels, whether he cared or not, eventually using pretty much every block in a cantilevered marvel nearly four feet high. I turned around and watched him in the sun room, making truck noises with his Tonka bulldozer. "Ta-ni," I sing-songed. I had to repeat it before he looked up. And then he saw. His eyes and mouth formed perfect circles before the grin started, the cat-like glee at impending destruction. He ran in his drunken stagger past me, lurching to a stop a stubby arm's length from the tower. He drew in a breath, flung his arms forward —

But not all the way. His hands stopped a couple of inches from the tower, his eyes and mouth round again. Then the gleeful giggle, his hands back in mid-air, and he stopped again. He looked at me, flapped his hands while abject joy radiated from him. He stood there, laughing and dancing and anticipating, for probably two minutes. He was not yet two years old, so two minutes of delayed gratification was an eternity. Finally, he reached out, slowly, deliberately, placed both hands gently on the blocks, and slowly, deliberately, shoved. He stood stoically as the blocks collapsed with their wooden cacophony. In the silence, he turned to look at me again, gave a deep, satisfied sigh, and plopped down on the floor by the rubble.

That was the night I knew I loved that kid.



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Violet Wilson

October 2016

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