As she walks down the street, her hand in her mother’s, I’m reminded of the ones that are missing in mine. They haven’t been there in a long time – ten years or more – and there are aspects of them that I miss. I miss pointing out things as we go. The way the live oaks’ limbs twist and turn offering a foothold for them to climb higher or a rabbit that just crossed out paths. I miss the way that they squeezed my hand after they said, “I love you,” or at the end of the secret. I miss the jockeying for thumb position even when I lose, and it feels awkward as hell to walk with someone else’s thumb on top of mine. But most of all, I miss the comfort of knowing that there’s a hand in mine
I follow the pair in front of me for a little while, eager to know what they are talking about. The little girl chats animatedly with her mother about the purchase at the store. Actually, and she punctuates that word with shake of her head, she really, really, really wanted Merida from Brave, but they were all out of her so she settled for Rapunzel because she was just about a good but she was worried that her hair might get tangled because she was from Tangled so maybe they needed to make sure that her comb was out all day instead of putting it away so that Maggie didn’t start chewing on it and was there any way that Momma could get Merida at the next store because she’ll make sure that Maggie doesn’t chew on the comb then because she won’t need to comb Rapunzel’s hair since she’ll have Merida instead. All of this in ten seconds flat. Her mother replies with a distracted, “We’ll see,” and checks her iPhone.
I want to smack her in the head. Tell her to put the phone away and squeeze her daughter’s hand and wrestle for thumb position. Of course you can leave out the comb; it’s a stupid comb not the Lost Ark. I think of telling her to go on Pinterest and see how to get tangles out of Barbie hair instead of checking Twitter to see what Snooki tweeted. But I don’t. I walk behind them for a little while longer, admiring the girl’s ability to talk about everything – Steven’s preferred cupcake flavor; her imaginary friend, Celia, who enjoys gym class but often loses the jewels off of her gown; why sienna brown is a really dumb color but still pretty at the same time; does Momma think they could have fish sticks tonight instead of tacos even though fish stick night is tomorrow night – without taking so much as a breath. Her mother offers the occasional “Mmmm . . . really?” or “Wow” as she responds to a text message or laughs at a status update, and the girl continues to hold her hand and prattle away, oblivious to everything that is more important to her.
They turn to cross Allen, and I continue across Broad, all the while wondering how my little hands from ten years ago would feel. Would they still squeeze my hand back? Would there be anything worth noting on our walk? I’d like to think that even though they don’t need my help to cross the street or really care which live oaks are best for climbing, they’d still want to hold me hand. I make a mental note to call them later that day just to see how they are . . . a kind of mental hand squeeze for me. Maybe for them, too.