A few weeks ago I heard what I once heard termed a terrible story–one which stayed with me for many hours after hearing it.  A woman, a neighbor and friend of one of Scott’s family members, had forgotten to put the handbrake on when parking her car and, in her attempts to stop it from rolling away, had somehow been run over by her very own car.  She was, at the time of the telling of this terrible story, in dire straits in the hospital, leaving a confused and sad little girl and husband to teeter on the brink of irrevocable loss.

Tragic, or potentially-tragic stories involving parents and children hit me hard ever since I became a mother myself, as once did tragic stories involving young college-aged people when I was a young college-aged person.  For those hours when I carried around that story, I thought too much about how brutal it would be for a young child to lose her mother’s body, forevermore; to crave so instinctively the touch, the smells, the contours and sheer physical presence so representative of safety and emotional and physical rightness. How could a child comprehend a mother’s empty, or failing body?  See the tease of them there, so familiar, and yet so unreachable?  Or, worse yet, how tragic it would be to have a mother disappear altogether, whisked away in a flash, leaving behind a confused and primeval ache in her wake.

Then, yesterday, at a family birthday party for Scott’s niece, we found ourselves at a farm on a cold November afternoon.  L. was happily lost in a hay maze, and T. was in and out of the barn, waiting so eagerly for the chance to ride a pony.  I struck up a conversation with an interesting and vibrant woman, the kind of woman who makes you feel you’ve known her all your life when, in fact, you have only just met.  The wind whipped around us, horses blew out steam, the chickens scattered and regrouped, and her own daughter raced back and forth from mother to father and back again, content in the presence of both her parents; bookends, home bases, rightness embodied.

Well into conversation with this engaging person, I found out suddenly that this was the same woman from the terrible story–the one who only a few weeks ago had been in such a tenuous state. And here she was, in flesh and blood, on a windy slope, her curly hair waving around her face, and her daughter running crazy circles in the wind. I reached out to touch her arm when I found out, and felt just so amazed and happy that she was there, on the other side of it all, on a day probably just as ordinary as that other day, the one that was so terrible.

And by and by her daughter clamored to be held.  She bent and scooped her up with one fluid movement, so practiced and commonplace–I must do it with T. fifty times a day.  At once the little girl folded her body in close, her legs and arms settling just right into all the familiar places, her head leaning in against the curves of woman’s chest, the softness of her shirt, the body–her world–she had almost lost for good.

I thought to myself, how could anything seem more important ever again to that mother and child, there on that slope, in the wind, than all of that?

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