Maggie was drawn to me. I couldn’t understand it. Her mom asked her if she remembered me. She searched my face.
“No,” she said, and went about the business of being six years old.
She was born just a few days after my wedding, but we didn’t meet until a few years later. We had a tea party, and she taught me how to hold my pinky the right way. At that time, it was too painful for me to pursue attachments to children. Even the ones in my family.
I’m an only child who’s always lived away from most of my family, but Maggie is the youngest of four children who’ve grown up close. She has three brothers.
“Let me take a selfie,” she said. So, I did. It’s hard to say no to Maggie.
“Ok. Now put it on Facebook,” she said.
“What do you know about Facebook?” I asked.
“Everything,” she said, conspiratorially. I smiled. But I couldn’t post it. I’ve looked at it a few times and I can tell I look happy. Full of life. Savoring a moment with the closest thing to a niece I’ll ever have — second cousins by marriage.
Posting it to Facebook would mean likes and comments, probably one that would say something like “You look radiant!” or “I love seeing you with children.”
I’ve learned to remove myself from conversations about what age you’re supposed to be when you have children or when your children should be graduating high school or when your parents should be grandparents. I want to be able to laugh freely when people say these kinds of things, but it still stings. I want to make plans, too.
It’s easier to avoid children, but it’s also harder. I become hardened, which doesn’t mean I don’t feel. It means I feel all at once, and alone.
It’s been awhile since I’ve been around kids much. How did Maggie know I’d want to do a puzzle with her? And let her beat me in Othello. She said she didn’t remember me.
We were eating pizza on a Sunday afternoon and she wanted me to sit at the table with her. She wanted the women to sit together. A community of bracelets and lipstick.
I could have said no. I could have protected myself. But I sat with her. I played Othello. I helped her with a Lisa Frank puzzle that we couldn’t finish because it was missing pieces. I told her about trading Lisa Frank stickers with my friend Deborah when I was her age.
Maggie drew a picture of us together. We were skinny. We were wearing crowns. Maggie was bigger and taller than me.
Works for me.
I asked her why we were wearing crowns. She said, “We’re princesses.”
It’s been a long time since I knew myself as a princess. I think I like it.