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Rawe-struck

The wonder-filled life of a single older-ish mom.

Archive for the category “Mamahood”

Summer, A Platform

It’s been three months since my last post. In the past I’ve had seasons when my writing crop goes fallow, so to speak, and I’ve always returned to the business of farming words with heavy regret over how much time I’ve wasted. This time I’m trying to recite a different story — one of acceptance, possibly even celebration. Possibly.

For the past three months I squeezed the juice out of summer with my daughter. We swam, biked, baked, argued, snuggled, and wrestled with boredom. We travelled to make-believe places and real ones. We visited friends who are like family in Maine and dared one another to leap off the “jumping rock” into the lake. We reminded one another to say no when our instincts said not this high. We studied cobwebs and snails and moss, and I grew tired of cleaning muddy footprints tracked in the hallway. We butted heads, wiped tears from our eyes, and mopped sweat from our foreheads. It was mundane and wondrous and everything in between. At the end of the summer, we laid in the grass and said Phew, that was fun. I love you so, so much.

As a writer, I’m supposed to be “building my platform” — slinging my work into the world in hopes that fellow readers will chose to follow me so that someday a book publisher will have proof that I have something other people would be willing to hear. But to be honest, I wrestle with that. When I post something, anything, my hope is more that my little bit of the journey will resonate with someone else — that maybe one other soul out there will feel Yeah! Me too. Keeping track of the statistics about how many “followers” I have and which posts generate the most hits leaves me feeling hollow.

So this time, for the first time, I declare that I will not trade this summer of joy for the stench of shame over what I didn’t accomplish. I’ll focus on the platform that I did build . . . the one for my daughter, the one that’s brimming with memories of a childhood summer well-savored.

hose1

— Amy Rawe

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Monday’s Wonder

Or maybe it should be called “Monday’s WTF?”

It was Nina’s bedtime, and she said she had to take care of something in the kitchen first. When I checked on her a few minutes later I found her spreading a massive glob of grape jelly on a PBJ sandwich. She had already made three sandwiches, and had them stacked one on top of the other.

“Why are you making so many sandwiches?!” I said with exasperation. “Are they for bed? For lunch tomorrow?”

When she didn’t answer but instead added the fourth sandwich plus a toy crown to the stack I shrieked, “What are you doing?”

She turned to face me and said proudly, “It’s for the History of Sandwich-Making Museum. I guess you’ve never been there if you didn’t know that.”

pbj

 

Slowing Down

blackberryI was impatient this morning as I watered our blackberry bushes from the hose attached to the rain barrel. The water oozed out lazily, slow to relieve the cracked dirt parched from four days of ninety-degree sun.

I moved hastily from bush to bush, and my thoughts slipped easily into the mucky rut of shoulds. “I should paint the deck, clear the clutter from all the cabinets and drawers in the house, be a better example of flossing for Nina, iron the kleenex, blah blah blah.

Then I saw the first ripe blackberry — my benchmark for the first day of summer — and I felt lit up by simple, peaceful, joy.

I laid down the hose and let the rivulets seep into the soil around the bush, imagining the water caressing the tangle of roots underground. Every summer I am amazed by the resilience of these bushes and how they bear fruit despite a temperamental winter, despite my inattention. Once again, Nina and I will begin each day with cups in hand to collect the berries and we will joke about how we will surely turn purple if we eat one more plump berry.

As I picked that first berry, I realized that I’ve skidded into this summer harried with anxiety over how I’d manage the long ambling days of motherhood while trying to find more work and finally finish writing that book.

But in the moment that I tasted the berry, sweet with a tinge of tart, I wondered if the most important thing I can really do is be open to joy. Lighten up. Slow down. Savor.

I will always have a to-do list, and it will never all be done. If I accomplish only one thing today let it be the humble acknowledgement that a full rain barrel and an embankment of blackberry bushes is a luxury in this war-torn, impoverished world — and I am grateful.

A Prayer

mother boko haram girls

Today my heart is with the mothers of the girls abducted in Nigeria.

I cannot imagine how you
must fall to your knees,
claw trenches of anguish
in the dirt with fingers
that long to braid her
hair one more time.

You brave entering
the dark forest of thorns
too dangerous for soldiers,
clinging to the thinest hope
that you’ll find her wandering,
bloodied but free,
and you’ll hear her gasp,
“Mama?”

I cannot imagine how you strain
against the nightmares that ravage
your mind about what tortures your baby is
enduring — if she is still here,
on this merciless earth.

You gather with the other mothers,
journey to the capital to protest
and are told that the Senate
is considering a motion,
that you should calm down,
that everything would be done
to secure the release of the girls
in due course. 

“Due course” is a
cruel and foreign tongue
to a mother’s heart.
“Secure” and “calm” have
already been exposed
as shams.

So you keep pounding your fists
to the tempo of your heartbeat
because it is the only
constant you have.
And you pray.

Mothers around the world
sync our heartbeats
our prayers
with yours until the
drumbeat is deafening,
calling your girls home.

— Amy Rawe

Rules To Be A Superhero

I was cleaning out my desk yesterday and found a piece of paper dated 3.19.13 — “Nina’s rules to be a superhero.”

IMG_05161. Never use revenge and stuff — unless it’s for peacocks on a ship, or pirates.

2. Never use your fighting powers for killing flies.

3. Never use your powers on turtles, unless they’re as big as the house.

4. You have to have good balance and be able to walk on the curb, and you have to run fast.

5. You have to be able to kick and save people— even without a cape.

Snake

My people gifted me the name u-tsa-na-ti,
but the white ones renamed me gray ratsnake
for my color and my prey.

I sidewind-slither among the trunks of the most hallowed aged ones—
pine, cedar, laurel, spruce, holly.
These stood vigil for seven days and nights
while the Great Spirit created all that is
above, below, here, within.
The grand sentries were rewarded
with loyal leaves that refuse to fall
with North Wind’s chilled caress.

Their roots stretch in sacred Appalachian soil,
an alchemy of clay, slate, granite,
on a limestone bed made from the
shells of ancient sea creatures.
Once unscarred by man’s slashes of demarcation,
the land still wails with the sorrows of spirits past.
The Trail of Tears washed
through this dung and dirt
as the Cherokee tribe was forced to walk
with babies in arms,
with elders crumbling to their knees,
for 1,000 miles.

One
thousand
miles.

My ratsnake ancestors, many skins long since shed
to the world beyond,
still whisper their truths.
We coiled our bodies into labyrinths, they hiss,
to lure the two-footed ones in other directions.
We hung from the limbs of our guardians and tried
to snag them as they walked by.

They hiss too of the small mockingbird
which darted across the trail
from pine to holly,
an oracle calling urgent warnings in
every language she knew.

They hiss of the mighty raincloud,
sodden with grief,
that swept across the sky to rain a river
the people would be unable to cross.

But like harsh wind to the cloud,
the people were pushed on by a cruel force.
Their blood flooded the dry creek bed,
splattering the sacred holly
with red droplets.

In the wreckage of such suffering,
the ratsnake, mockingbird, and raincloud
remain a trinity of gray,
mottled black with the color of death
and white with the color of peace.

More than two-thousand moons later,
they take refuge in earth’s mossy womb,
pregnant once again with
impermanence.

— Amy Rawe

Monday’s Wonder

wahoo

While creating a photo folder of the past several years on Sanibel Island, I came across this throw-back from 2009. Nina was about 18-months old . . . this is her reaction upon seeing the ocean for the first time.

Of Rice And War

We were tucked into a plush bed long after bedtime in a lodge in the Smokies, and Nina wanted a bedtime snack — which I didn’t have. She whined, asking how I could possibly be so unprepared, reminding me that mamas should plan ahead when away from home.

We volleyed back and forth. She asserted, “You should have packed snacks,” and I replied, “You should have eaten your dinner.”

After we repeated our lines several times, I finally said in exasperation, “Nina, it’s not like you’re standing in a long line at a refugee camp waiting for a bowl of rice.”

Silence.

Then, in the darkness right next to me she whispered, “What’s a refugee?”

A backup beep-beep signal flared in my mind as I realized what I’d stepped into. I tried to explain simply, and she became quiet again.

Then, “Mama? Why do people have wars?”

Beep, beep. I faltered through that explanation as well, and she was quiet for several minutes. I held my breath, willing her to fall asleep so I wouldn’t have to bluff my way through more simplification of the complexities of the human race.

“But Mama,” she piped up, “Why do the refugees order Chinese food?”

Sanibel Island

nina beach starfishWe are back on Sanibel Island, one of my favorite places on Earth. I was just a few years older than Nina the first time my parents took my brother and me to Sanibel Island, the first time I saw the ocean. Even then, I felt as if the roots of my real self had found the right soil. My senses, lulled into complacency by middle school and the midwestern flat cornfields, swelled in the salty air.

I was mesmerized by the waves and how they pulled and pushed to alter the geography of this place twice a day, over and over. Because I was a horse-crazy girl at the time, I imagined the moon hauled invisible reins to harness the waves like a mighty stallion. At 47, I still feel this sense of wonder.

Seven years ago, I walked this shore on Sanibel Island cradling my daughter in my womb. The images from the ultrasound were only a day-old then, with her organs as tiny as pebbles and her hands moving slowly like starfish.

So I tell Nina again, as I do every year when we come to Sanibel Island, about when I walked this beach with her growing inside me, and how I felt so overwhelmed about how she would love this beautiful world.

“Yeah, yeah, Mama. You’ve told me that a million hundred times already,” she says, splashing me with a flick of seawater.

I think about last year, when two teenage girls stooped near us to snatch up a shell. The girls were the image of the American ideal, with long silken hair, daring bikinis, and tanned skin.

“Hi!” Nina called out to them, but they didn’t hear.

“Is it perfect?” one girl asked the other. “God, I really hope it’s perfect!”

The other turned it over in her palm and then declared, “Nope. Cracked right here. See?”

“Shit,” said the one hoping for perfection. “Drop it.”

As the teens walked on I moved over to see what they’d rejected. A buttery-brown shell had a spiral pattern that began in a tight dark dot which furled outward three times around. Yes, it had a deep crack, but it was exquisite. There were three others, with similar spirals in the same shell heap and I gathered them all.

“What are they?” Nina asked.

“They’re shark eyes, which is a type of moon shell,” I told her. “See how this dark dot in the center looks like an eye? And see this spiral that starts from that center?” I traced the spiral of the largest shell with my finger and then bent down to trace the swirl of her belly button sticking out from her two-piece swimsuit.

“You match,” I said.

Each shell was broken open, but the swirled tips — the very marks that identified them — were not marred. One had only that very bit of swirled spire remaining, the rest of its curved chamber amputated. I closed my fingers around the shells as I told Nina we had to head back to join the rest of the family for dinner. We made our way from the compact wet sand, carefully stepping over the ridge of shattered shell pieces deposited by the highest tides, and sank our feet in when we reached the softer dunes near the sea grasses.

“I’ve been salted again,” Nina said, licking dried seawater on her fingers.

“Just don’t get mayonnaised,” I teased, pointing up to the gang of pelicans perched in a palm tree. Nina screamed and bolted across the wooden boardwalk in front of us, trailing a gust of laughter behind her.

We met up to blast the sand off our feet from a cold water spigot, and raced one another up the two flights of stairs to the condo. I laid the sandy shells on the balcony outside the door and we looked them over.

“Maybe you’ll find a whole one before we leave, Mama,” Nina offered.

“Maybe,” I answered. “But I like these the way they are.”

“But they’re broken,” she said, “You don’t have broken shells in the jars at home.”

I was quiet as I realized this is true, then said, “Well, I will now. These are interesting to me. It’s like they have a story to tell because they’ve had lots of boo-boo’s and it makes me wonder what kind of storms they’ve been through. But what I like the best is that the interesting part about them — this swirl which tells what kind of shell they are — is still complete, and beautiful. It seems like they never lost their voice to announce who they are.”

Nina muttered “cool” and ran inside to find her cousins. I arranged the shells so no one would step on them, feeling strangely protective. To have once hosted living creatures, be churned and tossed in rough seas, and then emerge merely cracked but with identity intact struck me as damn near heroic.

***

Later that night, I felt nostalgic for one more walk on the beach after dinner, since we would all head back to our homes the next morning. Nina chose to come with me, and our feet once again made the transition from concrete, to grass, to sand.

A crowd had gathered a few yards down the beach and we zig-zagged our way towards them. When a water-soaked dog with a driftwood stick in his mouth enticed Nina to play fetch, I asked his owner what had drawn the crowd. She said, “I guess the usual. Those looking up have come to watch the sunset, those looking down are shelling for treasures in the tidal pools.”

Maybe it was the glow of the crimson peach sunset, or the warmth of the dinner wine, but I felt as joyful and grateful as George Bailey after he returned, bloodied but alive, from his nightmare in It’s A Wonderful Life. The wind had softened since earlier in the day, and was now a warm caress. I watched Nina laugh and run with the dog, and I watched people milling about, pointing at the sunset or showing off a newly found shell. I studied couples walking hand-in-hand and felt no longing, no absence. That wasn’t not for me, not now anyway. I was enough.

I caught up with Nina and we joined a huddle of people rimming a large tidal pool. “What’s in there?” Nina asked, and a silver-haired woman next to her said, “Here, take these.” She dropped two dime-sized sand dollars into Nina’s hand.

Sand dollars of any size are prized on the island, and I began to protest, but the woman said, “These are no longer alive, so she can keep them, and I have others.” She held up her weathered brown hands and said, “These are my badges of honor for living here year ‘round. I have plenty of shells.” Then she bent down and said to Nina, “They are so tiny but you can already tell what they are by their markings. Even so small, shells know what to become, just like kids, right?”

Nina nodded and curled her fingers around the delicate shells as if she was protecting a baby bird. The woman leaned towards me with a chuckle and said, “And they don’t become stupid like humans and try to twist themselves into some other type of shell they think might be better.” I nodded and laughed with her, but my cheeks flushed at the thought of how many different shells I’ve tried to fit into, and how often I’ve rejected my own. Then I caught myself heading down the worn path of berating myself and thought, “Slow down. You’re here now.”

Nudging my hip with her elbow, Nina said, “Mama, watch this.” She picked a carmel brown fighting conch shell from the tidal pool with her free hand and gently turned it over to expose the underside. I watched as the gray gelatinous mollusk extended a small sickle-shaped foot and waved it about. I told Nina the fighting conch was named for that very action of self-defense, but that most animals retreat deep into their shells when they feel afraid. “Here you go, brave little guy,” she said, putting the shell back in the tidal pool.

Then a collective “Ahhh!” erupted. “Look up,” someone yelled, “Here comes another one!”

A man standing farther back in the dunes held a two-foot hot air balloon over his head, ignited a flame within it, and let it go. The wind lifted the glowing balloon high over our heads and gently carried it out towards the deeper sea. We watched as the light gradually disappeared into the inky dusk sky.

“I’ve never seen this!” I said out loud, and the sand dollar woman told me they were called sky lanterns. The man in the dunes lit and released one after another until a dozen arced over our heads out to sea. I hoisted Nina, wide-eyed and grinning, onto my shoulders and she clapped with the launch of each lantern.

After the last one was swallowed into the night, I lowered her to the sand and she grabbed my hands, jumping up and down. “Can you believe we just saw little fires in the sky? Can you, Mama?”

All I could say was, “Yes, love. I can.”

Small fires — barely smoldering in our darkest hours or blazing with beauty during the glorious ones — will always light our way.

Some Thoughts On Faith

I was raised in the Presbyterian church and thought I had God and religion under my belt until I went to college at a Southern Baptist university. A particularly hypocritical religion professor and the pervasive belief that all is God’s will — be it a bad grade or a friend’s horrific car accident — eroded my footing. Eastern religions became more appealing, but mostly I just backed away from the whole God-question, which was easy to do during the fifteen years I lived in a small liberal town on the coast of Maine. Although there were the requisite churches for those who wanted to attend, I  didn’t know anyone who did and religion was considered to be a private matter.

When Nina and I and my then-husband moved to Knoxville, religion pounced on us like a large hyped-up dog. As we unloaded boxes from the moving truck into our new house during a sweltering July afternoon, two men in sweat-soaked white shirts walked down the street, stopping at each house. As they approached our driveway, my husband and a friend who was helping us scampered inside. I was left, red-faced and dripping with sweat, carrying a box down the ramp of the truck.

“How’s it going?” one asked cheerily, as if I happened to be sitting under a ceiling fan on a verandah doing nothing more than eating bon-bon’s. I put the box down and wiped my sleeve across my brow. They introduced themselves as pastors at a Baptist church up the road, and asked me if I’d been born again. I wanted to say, “I was a believer until I became a skeptic,” but instead I picked up the box, moved past them, and said, “We’re not looking for a new church, thank you. And we’re busy moving in, as you can see. You’re welcome to help unload, if you like.” They walked on to the next house.

Just days later, a proper Southern woman asked if we had found a “church home, for our precious child of God.” And so we decided we needed to find a church, not out of our convictions, but so we had a robe to hide behind — kind of an armor to hold up and say, “See! We go here.” We also figured that if we were living in a place where the topic of religion was on the tip of tongues, then Nina would need have an understanding of it all, too.

We searched for the most liberal options — including the Unitarian church where a gunman had opened fire — killing two — just a year earlier because of the church’s “free-thinking.” Ultimately, we felt at home at the Presbyterian church my parents have attended for more than twenty years. Before we officially joined the church after a year of attending, my husband I met with the pastor, who is a young razor-sharp man with an outrageously irreverent sense of humor. I told him that I wasn’t sure I was qualified to be a member, since I don’t think Christianity is the only path to faith. He said, “Well, welcome to the craziest congregation of druids, Buddhists, Jews, skeptics, and some Presbyterians. You’ll fit right in. We have a labyrinth in the woods just beyond the parking lot, for pete’s sake. At one point, the youth hung Tibetan prayer flags out there.”

Yet on the day we officially joined our new church in Knoxville, my left ear was so clogged that I had a hard time hearing. Surely there’s a sign there, words of welcome falling on deaf ears and all.

****
After Sunday school with the “super-cool” Miss Mary, Nina said, “I don’t like church. They just talk about God and I don’t like God.” I asked her to tell me more.

“I guess it’s not that I don’t like God, but that I don’t know about God,” she said, “I don’t understand what God is, or where he is. Miss Mary tells me he is a he, like a daddy or something, and he is everywhere but I’ve never seen the guy.”

I tell her that I’m confused about God, too, but that there are a lot of different ways to think about God and no one way is the only right way. I tell her that often when I hear the name “God” I substitute the word “Love.”

“I think that ultimately God is about loving each other and trying to take care of ourselves, other people, and the earth,” I offered tentatively. This is from the mother who feels like a hypocrite even going to church — that I go not to worship a God I believe is my Lord and Savior but because it’s an open-minded, safe place to question faith in general. And because I love many of the people who also choose to be there. They ask Nina about the super-hero cape she often wears and agree with her that God doesn’t care if she doesn’t wear fancy clothes to church. And everyone in the pew doubled over with laughter one Sunday when she attempted to slide a smuggled-in whoopie cushion in my dad’s place as he sat down. As much as I know I should’ve chastised her for such improper behavior, I’ve got to figure that God doesn’t mind laughter, either.

****
I bought What Is God? for Nina and me to read. It’s a beautiful all-inclusive children’s book, acknowledging that God is a mystery. The colorful pages cover all the versions of God, from the old bearded man in the sky to Mohammed and Buddha, and emphasizes the interconnectedness of us all.

Nina leaned into me on the couch and we’d just turned the page about how people of one religion sometimes fight with people of another religion because they don’t understand that all religions come down to the same thing. God is everything, we read, from the hot wind in the desert to the freezing snow in the winter to the big, yellow moon.

“Are we about done?” Nina asked, “All this God talk hurts my brain.” I skim ahead to the last few pages on prayer and global interconnectedness and said, “Yeah. We’ll finish another time.”

Hours later, while she was coloring a My Little Pony picture and I was making dinner, she said, “I think it’s a force field.”

“What’s a force field?” I asked.

“God. Kind of like when I was at pony camp and learned how to stand on the saddle on Snickers. I didn’t fall because there was a force field all around me.”

“Of course,” was all I could muster to say, admiring her conviction with a tad bit of envy.

****
I read this poem, posted by my writing instructor, out loud to Nina:

God Says Yes To Me
by Kaylin Haught

“I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don’t paragraph
my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I’m telling you is
Yes Yes Yes”

After I finished, Nina looked at me with furrowed brows and I prepared myself for her question about the “she” issue. Instead, she said, “Can you be a little more like that, Mama? I mean, with your yeses?”

****
My friend Monique arrived from Asheville with her five-year-old daughter, Tessa, who would be staying with me and Nina while Monique attended a Biblical-Counseling workshop. I met Monique after she and her husband moved into the house four doors down from us in Maine. Because their house was on the corner of a four-way-stop sign — and because they hadn’t put up blinds or curtains in their kitchen yet — I stole glimpses of them in their kitchen as I drove by and guessed they were about our age.

Having been the new kid on the block a couple times when I was younger, I have an internal welcome-wagon setting that kicks into gear in a situation like this. On the morning of Super Bowl Sunday, I stopped at their house after running to the grocery store, knocked on the door, and invited them to join us. They did, and we’ve been friends since despite their move to Asheville and ours to Knoxville — and our differences in faith.

Monique and her family are Seventh-Day Adventists, and were somewhat of an anomaly in our small liberal town. They had a bible on the side table, for godssake, which dinner guests placed their drinks as far away from as possible. But Monique and her family persevered, and never in an obtrusive way. They would only talk about how their faith worked for them — “We prayed about how to strengthen our relationship,” for example — and never suggested to their friends that they do the same.

Now that she’s back with family and her familiar church, Monique has been studying to counsel others from a Bible-based perspective. Shortly after she left for her workshop, Nina and Tessa got re-acquainted, beginning with age and grade. Nina eagerly showed Tessa one of her addition worksheets from school.

Tessa, who attends a private Christian school, replied, “Do you pray in school?” Nina screwed up her face as if to say “are you crazy?” and said, “No. Well, we say the Pledge of Allegiance and that has God in it.”

“No,” Tessa said, “like you have church while you’re at school. We do. Everyday.”

Nina flipped her hand in the air and said, “No way. But we God-it-up on Sundays.”

****
“Tell me a story about God,” Nina said, sitting on the toilet in her 1960’s green-tiled bathroom while I filled the bathtub. My mind went blank. “A story about you and God,” she prodded. I didn’t say, “Once we were good friends but I didn’t like some of the zealots he was hanging out with so we haven’t been in touch for awhile.”

She answered my silence with, “Well, I know a lot about God.”

“You do?” I asked. “Where did you learn so much about God?”

“I just know,” she said. “I was born knowing. Kids come out knowing about God and all that stuff. God’s inside us.” She looked out the bathroom window at the trees that were beginning to drop their leaves and said, “And he’s in the trees and the leaves, and…” She trailed off while her eyes scanned the bathroom, landing on the bubbles in the bath. “He’s even in the bubbles, definitely in bubbles. Oh, and God’s ok with tantrums,” she added.

I can have faith in that. And for right now, that’s enough.

— Amy Rawe

New Life


Although I am not yet born,
still tumbling in the ocean
within you,
you saw me today
for the first time
through ultrasound.
You learned I am a girl
and you will name me Nina —
meaning strong and mighty.

I felt you shake as you cried
and the doctor asked
if you were disappointed by
my gender.
You were not.
But you shook with the gravity
of bringing a female into this world that
has chiseled you into a nice girl,
into this marriage that will
erode your voice
as you fail
to be the perfect wife,
the perfect anything.

But I will stir
the knowing
already within you.

For me,
you will one day
resurface
from the drowning to
gasp and sputter for air.

As I will do when I emerge from you,
you will take your
first breath,
crying out for new life.
And for me you will
re-learn your language,
as you teach me
my own first words.

You will croak guttural truth
after truth until the song of you
once again flows,
and you will sing to me
the lullaby of how to be
a strong woman,
how to swim free from
the undertow,
how to harness the tides of
fear and faith,
how to be the
moon of myself.

And once again
you will be pregnant
with possibility.

— amy rawe

Fairies, Santa, God.

fairyNina is taking advantage of another snow day to redecorate her bedroom. She ripped down all the notes and drawings about fairies that have been taped on the daffodil-yellow walls since last summer. I gathered them gently, as if they were rose petals, and lingered over my child’s innocence.

“What color are your wings?” she’d written in six-year-old shorthand spelling on one note. On others she asked, “What do you make your bed out of?”
“Where do you live?”
“What do you make your clothes out of?” And on every note, the fairies replied — amazingly always while Nina was at school — that they made their wings out of every color, their beds out of flower petals and clouds, and that they live all around us. The fairies even reminded Nina that they prefer to visit a “kleen” room, spelled just like a six-year-old would understand. A sparse sprinkling of glittery fairy dust on the dresser in her room every now and then was evidence.

Each day that Nina discovered a message from the fairies she’d squeal and yell from the top of the stairs, “Mama! Come up here quick! You won’t believe it!”

I know there are many viewpoints about perpetuating a child’s belief in  fantastical beings such as fairies. Nina’s dad, for example, believes adults shouldn’t lie to their children and that telling them fairies can be real is doing just that. Fair enough. But I also know that childhood is short, reality comes too soon, and that the world seems so much more beautiful when I’m willing to believe there’s more to it that I can visibly see.

“I don’t get God,” Nina said to me once. “People say he’s all around you but I’ve never seen the guy. Wait . . . he is a guy, right?” I don’t have any good answers, and try to explain that there are many different ways people understand and see God, and that maybe we’re all just trying to describe love.

Are fairies, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and all the rest essentially primers for faith?

So now I tuck the stack of fairy drawings on a high shelf in Nina’s room while she stands on her bed, pressing stickers on the wall above the headboard. I ask her about her design plans and she says, “I still like fairies, but now I really, really love My Little Pony.” Her enthusiasm for the cartoon somersaults out in her descriptions of what she likes most. “My favorite is Rainbow Dash,” she says, “And Mom! She can fly! Plus she has sonic rain-boom power.”

We spend the next hour in her room, arranging her collection of My Little Pony stickers and figurines. “Did you know there are alicorns too, Mama?” she asks, looking at me with raised eyebrows. “They’re ponies that have both wings and a unicorn horn. Whoa! Can you believe it?”

Yes, love. I can.

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