She slipped the photograph between sheets of plastic to protect it, careful only to touch the sides of the picture. This girl whose clothes, used tissues, and eraser bits lay about her room in heaps, held the image cautiously and lovingly, like a newborn, tucking it tenderly within the pages of her thickest bound book.
This same image looks back at me from the wall of my bedroom. She in my arms, smiling and squirming, begging to get down and run willy-nilly about the empty courtroom. And that severe looking man is there too in his long black robe sharing his full indomitable weight with the camera and just beginning to grin.
She says she needs it for school. Her teacher wants them to bring in a snapshot of a happy moment. To share? I ask uncomfortably ready to remind her how words from others tend to cut and misshape her experience.
No she says, to help me write a poem. Yesterday’s poem held fire, deep in the night, it’s shimmering beauty that can blister so. But today’s poem will be about happiness. The kind of happiness that finds you in the arms of a mother, loved fully, wanted and pre-approved.
She writes her poetic words inside pictures, twisted in and rooted, the two inseparable. Words and feelings grow together for her in the most unexpected places. Staring at the image taken a long decade ago, whose eyes hold the happiness she seeks: hers, mine, his?
This mom. She says. This is my happiest memory. The day they said we could have each other forever.
I hear the zipper of her backpack pull the teeth along, closing the memory within and watch as she stands, places the memory firmly on her back, and walks away from home, carrying the weight of her story.
Written in honor of this beautiful babe’s eleventh birthday and her happiest memory.
May she always know joy in her story.