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21 February 2016 @ 07:14 pm
warm saturday afternoon  
walking up the avenue, my three-year-old niece sporadically surrenders to existential fits. her nose is crusty with stalactites and her free-associations interrupted with coughs. she wants to walk, she breaks free from the group. i quickly step to draw her back in. she holds my hand and she holds her mother's hand. she does not want to hold hands with her father or ben. "only girls today," she informs us, in what is reported to be her third pink dress ensemble of the day. during one of our recent snow days, jeni tells us, niece apparently changed up her outfit eight times, not counting accessory shifts. as a family, we are strategizing on how to break her fixation on clothes. somewhat, at least. even the most optimistic among us knows it isn't going to be an "entirely" thing.

out on the avenue, there cannot be as many outfit re-assemblies, something of which niece is painfully aware. today she is very aware of pain, though her reactions are inconsistent and strange. if something startles her, it is painful. if somebody glances toward her and does not smile, she cries. eventually walking loses its novelty and she stops in the middle of the walkway, weeping. her father picks her up. she cries until he hands her to jeni with a shrug.

we stop at a new baltimore hipster overpriced accessory store, the theme of which is "almost, but not quite." there are $30 soy candles that smell like fancy restaurant bathrooms, a few giant bins of inexplicably bleached pinecones, a surplus of merchandise for those who cannot abide strangers not knowing that they enjoy craft beer, knit hats with patch slogans about our fair city that do not successfully walk any lines between "clever" and "i will be blocking you on facebook soon," and a disappointing but unsurprising lack of notebooks. i find a small display with a british import i mostly approve of until i see the sticker. nothing at the new baltimore hipster overpriced accessory store is under $12 except for the pinecones, which are on special for $9.

next, we got to the witch store so i can buy dragon's blood ink and niece can play, gently, gently honey, remember, be gentle, with the cathedral windchimes. jeni contemplates the wall of incense and decides on jasmine cones, "for spring." i find a pack of palo santo masala sticks and decide to give them a shot; the straight wood i use in my practice only really works as a smudge. i drop coins in the offering jar on the candle altar. at the register, niece is polite but firm. "i want to please leave the witch store now," she informs us. the owner laughs. we oblige.

outside, jeni asks if one of the windows in a nearby apartment building had been designed and installed by the family business. ben squints at it, unsure: it looks like one of their pieces, but if it is, the job was completed after ben left. niece sighs and wants to walk again. we turn the corner and head back up the avenue for ice cream, talking. niece stops us, tries to tell us something, tries to tell us something again, then stops and bursts into tears. what is it honey, we ask. what's wrong sweetie, we ask. her dad picks her up for a hug. she covers her face with her hands.

"i can't stop talking," she sobs, heartbroken. "make me stop talking now. i don't want to talk anymore."

i suspect we lost something in the translation from three to forty, but, then again, we really didn't. i've been there, sweetheart. i most certainly have.
mood: lurking headache again
music: nina simone - sinnerman
(Anonymous) on February 25th, 2016 03:12 am (UTC)
This was so prickly sweet I am unsure whether to sob or smile. I had a young friend who had a son I knew from the ages of infant to middle school. I never had a family of my own or I would have known better to try to be a stand in father. But those ages from 3-7 were days very much like your walk. Those are days I will never forget. Thanks for hitting me in the memory bone
selva oscura: [rs] stairsanonymousblack on February 25th, 2016 05:14 am (UTC)
my nephew (i coached at his birth) is turning fifteen this year. and wow, i am familiar with the "sob or smile" deal. my sister placed him, but the adoption is open, so we've had visits throughout his life... but i moved to baltimore in 2007. it does NOT help that the way i was holding him in memory, my first few years here, was as the newly-six year old we took to the arboretum so he could smear ice cream all over his face and shamelessly beg us for a bug catcher he saw in the gift shop. now he's on facebook and will soon be taller than ben.

he apparently cried a lot when i moved. he told his mom that he was afraid i was going to get another niece or nephew out here and like them more than him. that's not what happening, but the guilt! it crushes! regardless. :-(