“Saturday. Cartoon Day,” she whispers me awake each Saturday morning. I don’t know why she whispers. I am the only one here.
I try to ignore her but she whispers again, “Saturday.”
I groan and stretch and groan again but do I get up. She haunts the bathroom door until I come out. I turn on the TV and cue up the DVD of classic cartoons she likes and, soon enough, “Overture! Curtain! Lights!”
Saturday Cartoon Day isn’t even a thing anymore, I think but don’t say.
She doesn’t even watch the DVD I got her but still wants it on. It’s okay. This is her time and I am to indulge her.
“Pancakes!” she says before I’ve even asked and I’m not surprised. It’s always pancakes.
I pour myself a cup of coffee and mix up a small batch of batter and put a few sausage links on in a pan to be done in time to serve with the pancakes.
She prattles non-stop and sets up a tray with the pretty plate and fancy napkins. I never use them just for myself but she insists and I’m long past arguing this with her. It has been almost a year now since I committed to spending Saturday mornings with her and in that time I have gotten used to her bossy nature and prattling and have even come to like our visits.
“Can we play in the garden?” she asks and says “Thank you” before I’ve answered and is out the door. I carry the tray to the small table there and take a moment to breath in the air. The sun. It’s a good idea, the garden. It always is.
I think I understand why she always wants to be outside. Outside is the place where a little one like her can be on her own and not underfoot or in the way or in the middle. Even in harsh weather it is usually safe outside.
Outside is where the trees sing in the breeze before the breeze dips down to caress a cheek, lift the hair. Where bees buzz their secret language to each other. Where she can feel her bare feet on the ground and be connected to something solid, stable. I notice then her tiny bare feet and smile. Outside in the garden on Saturday mornings is a really good idea.
Then I notice the tray of food. Not again. Not now. Not still. After all this time and all this…work. Still?
“Put it back,” I spit the words. Rage fills me suddenly and completely.
There were three sausages on the plate. Now there are two. I know what she has in that fist behind her back.
“Put it back.”
I want to slap her. I want to slap her hard.
you greedy needy filthy little…
I want to hurt her.
This time I do not. This time.
Then, I want to give her the sausages. All the sausages. Shove them down her throat until she chokes on them and can’t eat any more but I know there isn’t enough.
There is never enough.
Instead, I look at her. I really look at her. I feel my knees go weak.
God, she is so little. What is she? Like three? Four? When she first started showing up, she was bone-thin and her dress was dirty. Her neck was so dirty those first weeks it took almost the entire visit to scrub her dirty neck until it was raw while she cried and cried. She was scared of her own shadow back then. She didn’t trust me and was suspicious and it came off as defiant so I wanted to break her until I realized she was broken already.
I thought she was nothing short of ridiculous.
In the weeks and months since, she has come out of herself and I have gotten to know her pretty well and, yeah, she’s a pip, that one. I have grown fond of her. Very...fond.
Her blond bangs are cut short so I can see that tears are beginning to pool in her blue eyes. She is waiting for me to act so she will know how to feel. I stop myself cold.
“I want to tell you something,” I say. I become very still in my seat.
Then, I tell her about the store up the road. That there is a freezer there with rows and rows of sausages. That there are more stores than I can count and that each one has sausages. That there are factories and factories and factories that do nothing all day and night but make sausages. That there are plenty of sausages for her, all she wants. All she could ever want. I tell her just the little I know about what is in the sausages and that it’s pretty gross! I tell her this is why I got turkey sausages for her this time. Because turkey sausages are supposed to be a little better for her and that I want to take care of her. That I will. That I do. That I can.
Then I tell her that there is not just enough but more than enough of anything she may ever need and that she gets to have her needs met without shame of having to manipulate. She gets to have her needs met. She doesn’t have to earn that or be afraid it is not so.
“Now, I want to tell you something else,” I say.
This is hard for me and I don’t know really how to put it into words because it’s sort of a new thing for me to know. I tell her that even past stores and factories, there is a Source of it all and that this Source or God or whatever is THE Source of all and so there is an unlimited supply and it is all for her! All of it. Always. That she doesn’t have to worry about being provided for ever again. That I’ve got this, me and the Source. I’ll be the grown-up for her and I promise to take very good care of her.
She smiles her fool face off. I can feel it coming off of her in waves. She is like the sun.
And of course she gets the “God” thing. She is the God thing. All little ones are.
So, pancakes. And sausages. Yummy.
“What now?” I ask. I put the tray in the kitchen and peek into my Saturday Morning cabinet. Bubbles? Jump rope? Sidewalk chalk?
One big sheet of paper and the markers are chosen and it’s back outside to the garden.
She wants to draw flowers. Before I can stop her, she has picked many more than I might have thought were strictly necessary and piled them on the table.
What gets drawn and colored is surprising to me. Not flowers as much as a mosaic of vivid colors in unexpected shapes and sizes. Cool.
She sings some, “I may never ride with the cavalry! Shoot with the infantry! I may never ZOOM over the em-in-eey! But I’m in the Lord’s army!” I laugh. Oh, Lord! She’s gone religious on me.
She sings more but these are songs made up on the spot to color by and never to be heard again.
She talks nonstop between nonsense songs. The puppy at the park this week? The one with the blue eyes? Remember?
And then I do. There was a puppy and, yeah, now that I think about it, it did have blue eyes. I had noticed something special but she is teaching me how to actually see the eyes of others through her eyes.
She grows quiet after a time. The sun is hot now. The kind of hot you can hear. She may be listening to it but I’m pretty sure our playdate is winding down.
She curls up close and I hold her. God, she’s so little. I stroke her hair and she shivers. Her ears are like pink frosting roses on a birthday cake. I love her. I will not let anything hurt her ever again. Not even me.
There is a reason the word “sound” is after the word “safe,” I think.
Safe and sound. Safe and sound.
She is happy. I put her back inside my heart where she lives and thank her for spending time with me.
I will keep our playdate again next week but I will carry the awareness of her with me every day until then. She is me, of course. My “wee me.”
Our Saturday mornings in the garden for the past year have changed not only the way I treat myself but also how I see others. From frothing politicians to angry mobs in the streets, so many wee ones with a fist full of fear behind their backs.
I gather up the flowers in the pretty patterned paper and carry it into the kitchen. It is only then I notice that what had seemed to be a waste of flowers is actually a beautiful bouquet, picked special just for me.
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