Wednesday, February 13, 2008

'Earth Angels'

My four-year-old daughter is just amazing. I think everyone who saw Simone at Myles' funeral knows this. She is not intimidated by people at all (so opposite from me), which is why when the pastor asked if anyone had anything to say (and I expected nothing) she, of course, piped up with an 'I do' and went up and told Myles that she loved him and put a rose on his casket. It took everyone's breath away, but it was so 'Simone'. That's just her personality.

So, today, she did something along these exact same lines. Her and I had went to get the oil changed in the car, and we'd sat down in two chairs next to a man who was reading the newspaper. Simone sat in between us. This was a man in his 50's, built like most men in their fifties, barrel chested/skinny legs. He wore a black leather jacket, and he looked a little rough (like he'd worked in the sun his whole life)  He looked nice enough for just being a random stranger at Express Lube.

First of all, I did not get the vibe he wanted to chat. And I know it is true that there are people who just don't like kids, so I'm always conscientious of her friend-making because she just dives right in without regard.  I think I try to hold her back because I get embarrassed and then am forced to do the Mom smile-shrug, which in sign language somehow means, "Kids, what do you do?".  Also, I am kind of a loner and I'm not comfortable talking to strangers, and don't like people starting up conversations with me when I'm in my 'zone' (especially reading).  Simone has challenged me on this many times, much to my frustration, but perhaps for my own good, too.  Simone is simply the most outgoing child, she is an extrovert (how did this happen to me?) she thrives in group settings, gains energy from interacting with others.

So, of course, she whispers in my ear after we sit down and get comfortable, "Mom, I want to say 'hi' to that man."  Now I at first tried to dissuade her from this, but decided to give in and reluctantly tell her to try if she wants to (I was reading my own newspaper by then).  So she looks over and says 'hi' but he doesn't hear her.  Simone whispers to me, "Mom, I said 'hi' but he didn't say anything."  And I'm thinking to myself that this guy does not want to be bothered. She is determined so, with a sigh, I whisper back and tell her she has to get his attention, then say 'hi'.  At that point I readied myself for the embarrassment that will inevitably follow.

Simone looks at him, and louder this time, says  "Hi."

"Hi." the man turns, looks at me,  then looks at her with a smile and asks "How are you, today?"

"Good" she says, as cool as a cucumber.  The next part of their conversation I don't remember as well, they discussed this Christmas card she had made during Christmas time and found in the car, she showed it to him.  She told him she was going to send it to Santa next Christmas, she told him her name, and showed him how she spelled it out on the back of the card, "S-I-M-O-N-E" she says point to the letters.  The whole time he acted as interested as could be, and I felt relieved that he seemed nice and actually seemed to welcome the conversation.  Here is where it get's more interesting.

Simone says, out of the blue, and very matter of factly, "My mom is trying to have a baby."  I hear this, as I'm listening to their conversation, and immediately blush and sink down in my chair thinking to myself that I cannot believe she just said that.  First, it's not true, I am not trying to get pregnant right now, someday, but certainly not now.  In my embarrassment, I shake my head and silently vow that someday I am going to embarrass the hell out of her when she's a teenager for this single moment of embarrassment alone.  I won't feel the least bit bad, either.
The man said, "Oh" nicely enough, probably knowing my chagrin at her telling him such personal information. 

Simone continues, "Well," all of her sentences start with 'well' (she's so sassy), "she was already pregnant and had a baby. She had a water birth." She says with a sense of respect and excitement in her voice (she just loves water births I didn't mean to brainwash her).  Of course, I go a shade redder and slink a little lower even as I'm chuckling at her water birth bit. I am thinking, however, that this has definitely taken a turn for the worse as I know where she is going with all this. 

"Oh, she already had a baby, huh?" the man says still very polite although I think maybe he wondered, even if for only a split second, where that baby is.
"Yes. But he died." Simone pauses and then says, "My mom cries about it all the time."  Of course now I'm really uncomfortable, almost mortified, obviously being talked about in the third person does that anyway but to share something so personal. So now I get to be 'debbie downer' and I'm going to have to talk about Myles with this strange man who is probably regretting the conversation began at all. I felt bad for him just like I felt bad for my former student who asked about whether I had my baby. 

Then, something amazing happened.  Before I can begin to stutter out an apology and explanation he says, just as matter of factly, and to Simone, "My daughter died too.  She was almost an adult though."  I was speechless, awestruck, saddened, and surprised at his candidness. 

Simone says, "Oh." 

I expected him to look at  me, to have that moment of connection and understanding that accompanies child loss. But he never broke eye contact with her.  Their amazingly nonchalant conversation continued from then on (she told him about her Chistmas gifts, and talks about how we were going to buy her a valentines day dress, and he listens as if it's his own little daughter or grandchild). I'm sitting their stunned, my heart simultaneously soaring and sinking.
So, once again, my daughter does what she has done to me on many occasions, beginning the day she was born when I first held her in my arms.  She just left me awestruck.  She knows how to take my breath away.

So, now that I'm writing about this interaction, I'm crying, but I wasn't then. Mostly I was smiling, and when Simone needed help articulating, I would help interpret for her in their completely Simone led conversation (about their dogs and cats and their names, etc., etc.).

As we said goodbye to him (his car was done) I made the conscious effort to remember their every word. It really did touch me in a very profound way.

I am not religious, not one bit. But sometimes there are coincidences, chance encounters with people that happen at just the right moment. I think of these people as earth angels. My midwife is certainly one, this lady I met on the bus the other day was one, too. And I can count at least half a dozen people who are just like that, virtual strangers who have stepped into my life, sometimes only for a moment. They say exactly what we need to hear, or they do exactly what we need done at that moment. This kind and gentle man who talked to me and my daughter for those 10 minutes is one of them, and we never even got his name!


c. said...

Chance encounter? My logical mind thinks that may be the case, but the emotional side of me thinks it was more than that.

I like your belief in Earth angels. I am still questioning the whole G.o.d. and faith thing, but occurances such as these make me wonder if there is something more...

Your daughter sounds infinitely adorable.

Melissa and Travis said...

This is the most amazing thing I have ever heard. Honestly.

charmedgirl said...

that is beautiful. i laughed and cried. we're all not that different.

Anonymous said...

Wow, your daughter sounds older than four. And adorable. I am fairly introverted and have wondered what it would be like to have a kid on the other side of the scale.
--Lyndsay (lyndorr) from feministing