She is three years old. A girlie girl who likes to try on my shoes, no matter how high the heel. A girl who always wants ribbons in her hair and simply has too much on her agenda to take a nap. Her mother was my flower girl in my wedding many lifetimes ago. We are related, but even if we weren’t, I know we would be family. She and I are kindred spirits. I look at this little one and I can smell the honeysuckle bush from my childhood home. It’s in full bloom and the heat of a summer’s day causes the yellow and white blooms to send out the sweetest of fragrances. I feel the satin of my own hair ribbons and the soft crinkle of grass under my bare feet. Her little girl giggles are a song to me, calling to mind my own carefree days of just being a child. Of just being. All of the daydreams and adventures when you are small become your whole world. Those magical days of wonder…fireflies, picnics, new puppies, learning to swim, to ride a bike, blowing bubbles, and jumping in those glorious mud puddles! She reminds me of happy yesterdays, this little fairy. So beautiful. So full of energy and curiosity.
She’s now lying in a hospital bed. At the age of three she has become acquainted with pain and sickness. The word Leukemia should not be one that she knows. Those invading needles…no lolly pop or stuffed animal can ever pardon their offense. There isn’t enough ice cream in the world to make up for having to sleep in that unfamiliar bed or being asked to hold very still for just one more thing. She comes from a family of strong women. I’m hoping she knows this. I’m hoping something deep inside her tender heart compels her to fight. Fight this ugly illness with all she’s got.
We traded shoes one day. She and I had attended her great-grandfather’s funeral and found “ourselves” a bit restless at the cemetery. Both of us, yes both, were instructed to leave the dirt alone. Our families know us so well. When they saw us take off, hand in hand, toward a gorgeous mountain of fresh earth, it was both of our names they called. They knew I was not going to be able to resist…the girl’s wishes or that wonderful hill of potential mud pies. Brown, fluffy, soft dirt. We were drawn to it! Before it could make its way under our fingernails or onto our dresses, we were recalled. As we walked back to our people, she asked if she could try on my shoes. I told her only if I could try on hers. That little pixie sat right down, removed her tiny ballet style slippers that perfectly matched her dress, and handed them to me with a grin and a twinkling in her big eyes. I had no choice but to plop down beside her and remove my shoes, handing them over to her. She squealed with delight as I proceeded to try and squeeze a few toes into each of her slippers. As I stood up, she reached her hands up to me so I could help her stand in my shoes. She was wobbly and unsure, but had a smile that seemed to wrap all the way around her head. I made her promise to keep her tiny hand in mine. She gave me a knowing look and said, “Okay. I won’t let you go.”
If only I could hold your hand right now. If only I could bear your illness for you. If only I could shield you from the pain and uncertainty that comes with a diagnosis of Leukemia. I would hold your little hand and I wouldn’t let you go.
And if we were blessed with another day together, just being girls, if we had the chance to trade again, I wouldn’t trade shoes with you, sweetheart. I would trade places.