You laugh when I say Daddy and Uncle Steve were my babies.
Pool water drips from our bathing suits
through the white plastic slats of our beach chair.
The dark puddles mimic gray shapes shifting overhead.
We sit wrapped in the limited safety of a gold beach towel.
I breathe the scent of your chlorinated hair as if it were medicine.
My embrace would save you from more than chill if it could,
make you a princess at the age of three.
But I think of a chrysalis,
spared the struggle of opening its own cocoon yet denied flight.
I kiss you on the top of your dark, wet head
and tell you how wonderful you are.
I pray for your spirit to sing whenever gray clouds
meet inevitable dark patterns below.
You giggle. Daddy and Uncle Steve. Babies.
It's okay, Kate. You don't need to understand.
Your small body curls next to mine.
I am in no hurry for you to grow up.
I have no idea how soon you will learn about loss.
That winter your friend slips under an ice-covered lake.
An accident. She's critical. Her prognosis, unclear.
As the months pass and your birthday arrives
I prepare your special dinner.
You come into the kitchen as I cook.
I expect you to ask about your presents.
Instead you mention your friend,
in a coma now, a sliver of the child she once was.
I pray for her every day.
You appear unaware of the power of words larger than you are.
Your fresh four-year-old trust widens a chrysalis opening.
Gray skies shift overhead, bash the ground below,
and leave you twice as beautiful.
Originally published in FOR A BETTER WORLD 2012.