When Taylor flew through the door today her eyes and face red, tears lining her face, I knew something horrible had happened. I was on the phone for a work call and immediately said, “I need to call you back” and without waiting for a response, I hung up and rose to my feet. She came over to me wordlessly and meeting my gaze, her eyes welled up again and her chin began to quiver.
At nine, Taylor is my older daughter. Arriving just three months shy of my 21st birthday, we’ve grown up together in many ways. When she was born, the doctor placed her screaming and wriggling on my chest and when our eyes met, it was like meeting someone I had known my whole life. She stopped crying immediately as though someone pulled the power cord out on her voice. And we just looked at each other. I remember saying, “Hi.” That’s all I could think to say overwhelmed by the weight of the moment.
Today in my kitchen, my baby’s eyes on me, I heard the same words escape my lips, “Hi.” All I could manage. And then, immediately, she was in my arms sobbing, her small frame trembling with despair. In between breaths she told me she’d seen a first or second grade boy trip while crossing the street in front of her school and get run over by a car. A few feet from where she stood she watched the tires go over his legs and his screams of pain as he lay in the street. To our knowledge he is okay, it was only his legs that were injured. So close to Christmas I can only imagine what his family is going through tonight.
Taylor stayed nearby as the ambulance loaded him up and took him to the hospital. The chaos swirling around her, wanting to see him taken care of before she came home. Seeing her face, even hours later, I know she is carrying that image with her. She probably always will. I know she’ll be okay, but tonight, she is not. So we just hug, and joke, and eat popcorn and drink cocoa. Her smile lighting up her cherubic face at the silly jokes I make.
I’m reminded dramatically today that children grow so quickly, they escape our grasp more and more each day. The power and the simplicity of youth is elusive and precious. She lost part of that today and she will again tomorrow. She’s instantly older, I hope wiser, I know changed. Even now, she is laying against my leg, silently watching TV as I type her face illuminated by the Christmas lights on our tree. Seeing her now, I flash back to that baby on my chest. The one who left me near speechless, who can still. And I beg for her to always have the heart that when confronted with such tragedy can only think to utter the words, “I just hurt for him, mom. I’m so sad that he got hurt.”