Monday, June 27, 2011

Wait

I stood against the railing and looked out the window. Clouds scattered across the night sky like cotton stretched thin so mom could stuff them into my lightweight quilts. Were there any stars that blinked? I must have looked but couldn’t find them or the face of the moon, knowing it’d be as soft, distant and beautiful as mom’s face at home.

I had just turned three, and said goodbye to grandma who was watching me when mom and dad worked. She missed her home in the north where ice covered everything outside but her heated brick platform bed made the rooms cozy all winter long. So dad put me on his bicycle this morning, tucking me close, yet pedaling us farther and farther from home. When he told me goodbye, grabbing my fingers and swinging them this way and that, I didn’t understand what he meant by “picking me up Friday”. It was only Monday then, even I knew Friday would be many days away and what about nights? Did the teacher shush me quiet and put me to bed, after dad left? I fell asleep uneasily, missing the sound of our kettle whistling softly on the coal burning stove, missing my brother Lou’s clumsy attempts to make me laugh, and missing the lamp lights that peeked through the curtains of my lashes while mom and dad turned their pages quietly from their desk.

A tear escaped before I realized it. I knew no one would see me but somehow it made no difference. I had woken up earlier from a bad dream, so I reached out for mom’s warm shoulders and soothing steady breath but found nothing. The slats on the railings bit my hand instead, reminding me that I was in one of the beds at the Garden of Children’s Weekly Care Center.

The room was so large I couldn’t take it all in, a forest of beds with tall railings standing guards. Were there twenty children sleeping through the quiet of the night on their own? Thirty? Fifty? I felt the presence of others, an occasional cough, a soft wail, but I was alone in my jail of thick slats and stiff sheets. The soft wood on the bed frame gave under the pressure of my nails, crescent marks of smiles and frowns. I had no recollection of this but mom later told me nail marks covered my bed there, a thousand tiny exclamations and question marks. After a while I must have gotten tired and sat down to rest my legs, eventually collapsing down to my side waiting for my eyes to shut.

Moonlight finally wandered through patches of clouds and sneaked around curtains to keep me company. Except it cast shadows that moved, so I turned and buried my face into my palms, willing and waiting for this to end, like the footsteps that went away, the cough that quieted, the dream I had woken from.

I waited, for an eternity, for dad to come pick me up, somehow.

17 comments:

  1. Heart breaking and touching... my heart went out for you... it must have been difficult... I am assuming that you are writing about your experiences... curious to know if he came to pick you up...

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  2. This experience must have had a huge impact on you, such a small child. I do hope the people who cared for you treated you kindly.
    It's remarkable the details we remember from our youngest days.

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  3. poignant and heart-wrenching—the smiles and frowns of your baby fingernails on the wood hit me hard—nice work, shopgirl!

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  4. This piece touched my heart.

    I can remember waiting when I was a child. Waiting seemed like an eternity! I think at one time or another in our lives, we've all waited for mom or dad to come and get us. It's never easy. It's scary. Sometimes when a day goes wrong, I still wait for mom and dad...but they are gone for good now.

    Beautiful writing, Shopgirl.

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  5. I got a little bit excited when I seen that you had posted something new. And with good reason too.

    Another beautiful memoir. Its amazing what impacts children. I think you have written about similar nights before, if I recall. Heartwrenching...but it gave you some beautiful material to share.

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  7. Oh, this is heart-rending and beautifully written. You did a wonderful job of making the reader (me, in this case) feel like they're viewing everything through the child's (your) eyes.

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  8. This is a wonderful recollection of a child. I love your description of the night sky and I was moved with the question marks on the wood.. heart breaking.

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  9. this is so sad! Is this true? Is this what was done there?

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  10. This one made me sad, too. It must have had a big effect on you. The image of you bundled on your Dad's bike, headed to an unfamiliar place, is especially clear.

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  11. Very sad, yet beautiful. I enjoyed reading your post.

    Also, you have won a blog award. Stop by my blog if you would like to see it.
    http://heatherhellmann.blogspot.com/2011/06/thanks-writing-nut.html

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  12. I love your memoir entries. So vivid and beautiful. Those nail marks tiny exclamations and question marks really got to me. Can just imagine what your little face must have looked like...

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  13. You seem to get better and better - it makes me wonder how brilliantly you might write in another year, two years, five years. I clearly felt like i was watching it all unfold, and I got a real sense of how that isolation and abandonment must feel to a child. This was perfect and vivid and I loved it.

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  14. Aww that made me sad. You had to stay there all week, day and night? Beautifully written.

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  15. Just beautifully told and written.

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  16. Wow. This is so beautifully written.

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