I realize that I’ve lived rather slowly, a blessing in disguise, yes. As is every year deemed wasteful, cast away as pitiable and laggard, negligent. All those years, I was unpacking–quietly at times, frantically at others–the box of fairy tales and nightmares from my early childhood, memories of self-denigration and -castigation, the dramatic, crimson and black and yawning caves of my mind grappling and dripping with emotion, my judgment of it all. Senseless, yet aloof, ever roaming. The feverish delirium that bounded me to bed at night, into the morning, into the slumberous afternoon, time dragging itself out, the air suffocating in the dome I breathed in.. Nothing. Breathed out nothing. And I’ve reclined in the darndest places, but the decision to do so was too easy, non-discriminating. Inside or outside, wood surface, wet surface, no surface (as in, standing). I’m being dramatic again, oopsies! But please bear with me, if you’ve read this far already. Oh boy, the process of emptying this box has been maddeningly cumbersome. But I’m near the bottom! Healing is a process, and your life probably won’t right itself in an instant, after some fateful catharsis opens your eyes to your Truth. It might realize which way to go, but how could it fully restore the gusto you started this journey with? That wouldn’t do your wounds justice. The sores brought about by all the blows you withstood, the wind whipping across your face as it screamed out your choked-up voice until it was just an inaudible pipe. Nothing but silence responded to your cries of agony. Silence was stoic and still, and Silence stretched out in all directions, merciless in its circumference and magnitude. Why, at my lowest point, I was in one of the most heavily populated cities in the world… I confided in whoever would receive me, I must’ve gotten on a lot of people’s nerves haha..

Well, all that to really say, yesterday morning, I finally forgave myself. I was there at the playground with her. I caught her, just as she was pulling herself off the slide bed. She watched me warily as I approached her. But once I was an arm’s distance from her, I saw that sadness and pain tinted her pretty, button-sized face. She was waiting for me to speak.

I introduced myself, “You know who I am.. Right?” She nodded, her eyes glimmering with intense anticipation/curiosity, cloudy with looming fear/doubt. She restrained a sheepish smile…. I broke the Silence by blurting out, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for not being there for you. I’m sorry for hurting your feelings, for detesting and repelling you in my utter blindness. I couldn’t see how beautiful you are, how radiant, how brave, tenacious. I was only able to forgive you because you forgave me first. Thank you…..” At this point, I couldn’t turn off the waterworks, and I sputtered out the next few words in near-incoherent gasps: “I am here now, and I won’t leave you again. But you are a bird, and you are free to fly. See?” I pointed earnestly at the ropes that now lay at her bare feet and camouflaged with the sand. Tears welled up in her eyes, and she squirmed to hold them back, she was dignified. But her cheeks and forehead and mouth relaxed, she breathed in understanding and breathed out relief. A peaceful breeze blew some wisps of fine hair across her face. I noticed her wounds were fading.

“…I love you,” I finally said. “And I couldn’t be prouder of you.” She smiled openly now, her eyes forming crescent moons with its tips winged to catch her tears, against a face aglow. But still she just stood there, hesitant.. Suddenly, I heard someone calling my name in the distance, a profoundly familiar call. “Where are you?! Breakfast is ready!!” Unbeknownst to the caller, we, being the proud rascals that we were, were not in bed; we would doubtless be eating a cold breakfast before a righteously agitated cook. We broke into synchronous laughter at Umma’s incessant calls. I know Umma, and she goes about this daily morning routine with a hint of mischief. She deliberately sings in tandem with the orange-headed thrush hopscotching among the gingko trees. “Hey!… Hey!…. Hey you!… Wake up!… Wake up!… Breakfast!… Breakfast!… Breakfast!…” Knowing that driving me to my wit’s end would force me out of bed and down the stairs to exclaim, exasperated, “Ok, ok, I’m up! Jeeeeeeez..”

Before I had recovered from my laughing fit, my 4-year-old self took a dramatic step over and wrapped her tiny hand around my pinky finger. Umma had reminded her that she owned the two feet she stood on, and she could move! Next time, she would move on her own, without anyone having to remind her. She giggled delightfully, “Let’s go.” And together, we headed home.

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