Long-legged, my sylph, my purple fairy
Dancing down the sidewalk to the door of her school
Watching the toes of her boots as she goes.
She is dressed in warmth, for me
But for herself, she is full of color, and contradiction, and cotton
Because it does not itch.
I see her go and I see another little girl
Built the same, except she stoops a bit, already.
She exits a school bus, not the family car
(the family car was likely broken, anyway)
Enters not an elementary, but a school for all grades, K-12
Shuffling between students five and ten and thirteen and eighteen
Hopping, sometimes, perhaps, but always looking. Watching.
I look at my child, and I feel satisfaction
Imagining all my childhood fears and terrors and sorrows, but knowing
that she will not know them
she will not know them
I look, and I think, with relief, yes, she is safe
The demons that haunted me will not find her.
They will not mock her clothes for being poor.
Older boys on the bus will not punch her in the nose
No wrinkled, harsh taskmaster will mock her penmanship
No gangs of imagined rural aristocracy will judge and mock her.
The demons that put their claws in me will not have mine
For I know them and how they work, and I have made mine safe from them.
But even as I lean back in the driver’s seat,
my shoulders easing, my heart warming,
I see the shadows.
And I see that I have played myself a fool.
I have stopped the paths of the demons, yes:
Demons designed to find and wound a long-legged sylph on her family farm
Daughter of a farmer and teacher, lover of forests and cows and cats.
Demons for a smaller, narrower world
Demons, in fact, of another time.
They are demons whose heyday was 1980
And while they live still, they are all but impotent now.
Yesterday I broke my daughter’s lunchbox.
It was a present from her father and I
for no reason
A retro, quirky, enchanting sort of present which
Would have made both of our hearts leap with joy.
We were both more upset than she at its destruction
and replaced it immediately, online,
Until it was found, and then we told her
so that she wouldn’t be sad
that we had done this.
She was grateful, and happy,
But I think we bought, and replaced the lunchbox for ourselves.
The world in 1980 was a different world.
It was a world of people who had things
and people who did not.
My husband and I did not.
We spent much of our childhood looking through glass
knowing we were judged for what we did not have.
And so, our child, in 2009, does not want
almost for anything.
And so, our child, in 2009
does not have our demons.
She has found other demons for her own.
I can, if I let go
Imagine my mother in 1980
Looking at her sylph dancing down the lane
And I see her shoulders sag in relief
Seeing the demons from 1957 swirl around me unnoticed
Obscuring her view of the ones I myself had welcomed in.
I see this, and I cry.
I would make her safe.
I would make her so safe no demon would touch her, now or ever.
I would construct for her, if I could, a world with no pain
Only light and unicorns and fairies
Its coloring skewed heavily to rainbows and shades of purple.
I would make myself a mountain to shield her
I would make myself a sky to cover her
I would make myself a forest to wrap around her
My blood a river to surround her
To keep her, forever, my happy sylph
Dancing her way into her school.
And this is why I cannot see the demons which haunt her
Those she has welcomed in
Because, like the little girl in 1980
She has also welcomed angels
To obscure her mother’s sight
And give her space and freedom
And to grow.
And so, as I drive away
Into the life that I have made
Crafted as I have struggled with my demons
I look back at 1980
and the little girl huddling her way down the hall
dancing through the forests of her mind
imagining her way out of the pain
And my shoulders ease again.