Seen and Heard

My mother died twenty years ago, when I was nineteen.I keep a picture of her next to my my niece Gillian’s most recent school picture on my desk on my home office. I didn’t plan it that way, but I like it — I look up just a bit and I see a picture of Charlotte and Levi, Gillian’s younger twin siblings.

Gillian is six years old. She’s got untameable blonde hair, a plucky spirit, and an exhausting curiosity about the world. She constantly explores, testing her boundaries, trying to get get six-year-old questions answered. Confident in the love of her immediate and extended family, her world is generally fun and her concerns few and short-lived. She is lucky, and lovely.

When I visited her junior kindergarten class, I asked her if she wanted my help to get up the stairs, concerned that the weight of her Disney Princess backpack was going to pull her over and leave her upended on her back, legs and arms flailing, like a turtle on its shell unable to right itself.

“No thank you,” she said, chubby hand on the bannister. “I do it myself.”

This year, in Grade One, she makes the short morning walk from my sister’s workplace to her school all by herself, under her mother’s watchful eye. Her increasing independence pleases her.

Her little sister, Charlotte, is going the same way. A premature infant, two-year-old Charlotte has fought hard for her right to be here, and she will be seen and heard.

My mother taught my sister and I to fight hard to be present, to value our independence, and to make ourselves heard.

I miss my mother. More about her tomorrow.