She has been holding my hand since she was six years old.
It was this small hand I held on my wedding day as she wore his suit jacket that slid over her small frame, giving her an army general silhouette against the setting sun.
She stared up at me, catching the flecks of beginnings and hope that fell from my full eyes looking down on her. And she covered her mouth to keep the giggles from escaping behind her smooth Lara girl fingerprints, the same fingerprints she leaves on my face, my hands, my eyes, my heart.
I’ve studied her hands over the years, the way the wind studies the sky, memorizing each point of light and chalkboard hue of constellation’s rising.
She’s been away. Then back. Life and memory, pages left strewn between train tracks and airplane seats, broken down cars and thumb raised hitchhikes. She wanders. Her heart is thick with wildlife and the soft strokes of nature. She is my niece. A heart bound sister, daughter, angel, and friend. And she is here to visit and my heart is giddy with reunion.
I missed her beach combed hair and baby doll bangs falling over the hollows of her eyes.
She is a ray. The solar eclipse between girl and woman overlaid with wisdom and past, the thin strand of light that falls between praying hands. She is the eyelash found under wet eyes, flushed cheek, the one wish I place on a single breath’s push into the wind. She is the last remaining petal after an autumnal rain, scarlet love against gray regret.
She laid her heart in a mire of silence and streams, our feet leaving unspoken thoughts with each crack of dried leaf and cry of broken twig. The fallen limbs and amber leaves died to ignite her eyes, giving the leafy forest permission to stand and fall.
And her voice, the feminine, this ray that slips past closed curtains and exposes all of the risen dust between the fear, came home, back to an open hand waiting deep in the forest.
She gave me half of her face. The other she hid in the shadow of quilt and grass. And the time stood tied in ribbons and bows, somewhere between her pinky toe ring and her acorn brown eyes. And to untie this bow is to let the gift of this girl become a woman, envelope turned and opened, letter burned from the bottom edge rising. The smoke and ash, the past set sail, exhaled in rings of obedience and birth.
And time bends backwards in the blades of grass between her toes and her staccato giggle. Sometimes if you look at someone very closely, you can see the corners of shedding skin on foreheads, arms, and hearts.
And to see her, to really see her, is the delicate process of letting those films, the transparencies of personality, damage, time, peel away to reveal the antiquity. The age refined, the porcelain vase that holds the garden flower. The cracks on the lip, the faded gold etching, scratched and made real by time spent in the hands of love.
And it feels better to know that I have her. That this world is still electric, plugged in with her twisted cowlick, and sideways smiles. And this spirit, God’s hand the cup holding our hearts afloat in soft foam waves, sails crossing, blink and failure.
The trees bloom hearts in her pause, her patient following of each nearby cloud. And the mushrooms grow a little taller, stand erect to get her attention and her three cousins follow her with airplane wings rising, dragons slain in her honor.
And the moon feels like it’s passed a thousand suns inside her eyes, collecting enough stars to shine just when her mouth turns from smile to laugh. Sometimes it's these eyes that feel like tiny fingers moving over my melancholy, flipping them over, the seaside sailors and reluctant paratroopers.
And all of this love that she carries around, stuffed in wrinkled pockets, slid behind the bend of her ear, tucked between fiber and fold.
And that song came on, the one that made me cry after I couldn’t get her back. And your posture kept the light from finding my eyes and her shadow felt like the hand that moved up and down my back in strokes of comfort.
And she will go back to New Zealand and her smile will be the wisp that whispers on the quiet rides home, when the boys sit stacked in school chairs, when the kitchen is blank and the night wets it’s lips before the hunger of sleep.
Her small voice will find hidden corners, creeks in stairs; moonlit floors and she will be a dream again.
She’s been holding my hand since she was six years old, climbing into my bed, toes curled around bad dreams, tucked neatly under piles of blankets and quilts with pattern and fringe, and one set of wide eyes curved from the pull of her smile slowly peaking from behind the blanket tucked under her chin. And her sweet voice reciting Winnie The Pooh. TTFN. Ta Ta For Now.
“Hold my hand.”
Grand leaps. High school eyes opening.
“Hold my hand.”
Young woman. Sometimes visiting. Secrets divulging.
“Hold my hand.”
Niece to sister to zipper seam closeness.
“Hold my hand.”
New Zealand cast shadow. Computer monitor humming.
Her pinky hooks my thumb.
“Stay here with me.”
Airplane wings. Departure gates.
Her toe meets the water.
Ta Ta For Now.