At my high school, we are taught by men and gothic towers.
Not here though. Here–I am on the Delaware River, muddled in the mineral-soaked banks in the palms of Pennsylvania. Here, I am taught by Anna. There is something about the youthfulness of her eight-year-old face that looks into mine. She asks me to tell her the whole truth. And I know she’s serious because her little hands grab mine and our pinkies lock. She bites her top lip and her honeyed eyes narrow. Her right ankle hooks behind her left–she’s nervous, and with her head tilted to the side, boxed by blonde curls, she asks, “Miss Lauren, when will mommy stop missing daddy?”
Our feet are sinking into the banks, as I hold Anna’s hand, as my heart goes out with the tide.
I think about her question for a long time. The sun starts to dip behind the glowing gold and crimson trees on Bull’s Island. Anna’s hair, seconds before sparkling, now just looks ashy blonde. She’s patient. Her head is tilted towards mine–she’s good at waiting.
Her father has been dead for two and a half years.
She talks about him like he still walks this earth. Like if we turned around, made our way over the rocks on the bank of the river, crossed the foot bridge, and busted through the door he’d pick her up and swing her around– his beard full and dark, his glasses fogged from the cold coming in, his belly full with beer…
I pick Anna up and place her on my left hip. She fits nicely there. Her arms hug my shoulders, and her feet dangle off my torso. “Well, beauty… it’s hard to not miss someone when they have a home inside here.” I close my eyes as if to show her the people we miss feel like they are a part of us.
She places her hand on my heart and repeats, “Here.” She smiles.
I think of her mother.