Thursday, October 21, 2010


The other day "J" came to the drop-in center full of her usual liveliness. Running through the yard and to the door in a puffy red coat and yellow 'abc' hat she exclaimed: I ran the whole way! And collapsed on a set of lockers. Taking off her coat she revealed an outfit composed entirely of purple: purple turtle neck, purple sweat pants, purple sweatshirt.

We did lessons together that day and I had to keep re-focusing her to her math homework. "J" is very social, easily distracted, loud, takes her time doing just about anything, and is just plain cute. When she talks, she'll put air quotes around what she's saying. She's 9 and this seems like such a western thing to do, that it makes me laugh to see her do it for Romanian. Her hair is blonde, her eyes are aquamarine, and she is tiny. Next to the mostly Roma kids we work with, she stands out.

And within all the sparks of life that dance in her eyes and tip-toe in her feet is the reality that in the last two years "J" has lost both her parents. Two years ago, her mom died of cancer. Last year, her dad lost his battle with TB.

When she at last completed her homework, she had a few extra minutes before art class began. So she wouldn't distract others, I had her sit with me and asked her how her weekend was.

Good, she said.

What did you do?

On Friday I played and on Saturday we had pomana for my dad.

Pomana is an Orthodox service celebrated a year after someone has died. A priest comes to the house and prays, certain foods are prepared, and the loved one who is gone is mourned.

I said, Oh "J," was it hard?

She paused and said: a little...and then Sunday I played some more.

Grief, bookended by play, swallowed in the yawn of girlhood whimsy. What will she remember and what will be lost? The sound of her mother's voice, the feel of her dad's hug? Her grandma's wail of grief? The pound of young feet on hard pavement when she ran? The freedom of a good girly laugh? That her favorite color was purple and she loved to do art but had a hard time focusing on math homework? Will she forget that on Friday and Sunday she played and on Saturday she mourned?


Carrie Burtt said...

April this is amazing....we can learn so much from children...and the way they grieve is so different from adults...they take things in, in segmonts of emotion...not taking in the whole burden of the loss. I lost my mother as a child, and am currently writing a poem about my memories of her for a prompt this thing i did loose was her voice..i would not recognize it, even if i heard it...but many other wonderful and painful memories do remain. Sounds like "J" is an amazing young lady, and she has been a blessing to you, as you have to her....truly lovely and inspiring story Aprl!

Brian Miller said...

oh what a touching post. i like her answer in that in the midst of it all she could play. i do think she will remember those that touched her life in these times...and these moments cement that....

Sharon Cohen said...

Your style of writing is hypnotic. I am caught up in the story and my emotions are played like a stringed instrument. You are an artist. I am looking forward to your posts in my daily feed!

Hi, I'm Sharon. I'm here from Emily's Imperfect Prose, enjoying each link and inviting everyone to stop in for my contribution, #47 Hearten Soul, Communication.

Meri said...

This is a wonderful memory capture. Will you have contact with this amazing little girl for a long time? It would make a wonderful present for her as a young woman. . . to know that she was important enough to leave an imprint on your memory bank, that you really saw her and her soul and were there, to notice her journey. A witness to her life.

Kati patrianoceu said...

It sounds like she's coping very well! I hope she grows up to manage her emotions well - that she'll remember the mourning sandwiched by the play, and keep the ability to do it!

emily wierenga said...

i want to hug her, in all of her purple beauty, and then i want to play with her. because she deserves the best. oh, april, thank you, for bringing this lovely girl into our midst, and we will pray. for healing. and that we can be more like her. (oh, how my heart hurts for her though...)

so exquisitely written. again. thank you.

From Tracie said...

There is so much strength in this child who has been through so much, but still has that spark of life about her. Playtime really is a precious thing, and it can also be healing.

alittlebitograce said...

she sounds as if she is loved very well by someone somewhere. thank you for sharing. i offered up a brief prayer for both of you.

Mrs4444 said...

She sounds delightful. I have one just like her on my caseload/6th grade class this year. I once said to her, "You are going to be an amazing young woman one day" and she replied, "So I am told!" with a big smile on her face. Sweet girls...I'm so glad these girls have strong women in their lives to make a difference.

Glad Sharon linked you up to Saturday Sampling! :)

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