After almost two weeks, we were able to see Maria today. She was eating dinner when we arrived, in clothes I struggle to accept because they look so institutional and I still resist that notion at a visceral level. In fact, the downward spiral this time began when I got her some pretty clothes for her birthday and insisted I get to put her name in them all so they would not make it into some sort of communal pile but would be hers. Hers.
Our girl was wearing the more drab, more nondescript–and far more practical–clothes that work for her. That included a purple hoodie jacket, even though it has been hot as all get out these days. But as soon as she saw me, she took her hoodie off. Her arms were so terribly damaged, large gaping sores all over her forearms–not just surface scratches but gouges, raw and angry looking, and so, so many of them. I wanted to kiss each one, maybe from some deeply held shred of magical thinking that believes that a kiss of love can make it all better. Her forehead was also bruised and lumpy where she hit herself against the wall. And her eyes–those big, beautiful, eyes dulled and dimmed by medication I’m thankful for because it has kept her safer from herself, at least for today.
Our visit was shy, a bit awkward, so achingly sweet. Little hugs. She wanted to bump foreheads with me, ever so gently, slowly, carefully. She wanted me to sit and watch her finish her dinner at the end of the visit. She showed me the fancy fake tattoo she earned for not hurting herself. I could tell how pleased she was when I noticed she’d put on some eye makeup. After a short visit with her dad, she and I walked back towards A House and I croaked more than sang the little lullaby I composed for her in 2001: Maria bonita, vestida de luz, tu eres mi hija, mi estrellita, mi amor–My pretty Maria bedecked in light, you are my daughter, my twinkling star, my love; she hummed along with me and held my hand, but loosely.
There’s a street in Boca that has always made us laugh, it is the one we turn on when we are headed to buy her new shoes for those little feet that are uneven by two shoe sizes–Butt Road. We were up there not too long ago on a shoe run. The new shoes we enjoyed buying on what we figured was our last Nordstrom outing few weeks ago are stained now with blood. Her blood.
It is one of my life-long responsibilities to grow beyond magical thinking and denial. It comes by the hardest. Today, to see her was one of the few acts of faith I could offer my daughter, offer a loving God who I believe does not will such pain. I had to refuse to flinch and look away from all that hurt. I could love and be present even to all that wounded-ness. So I did kiss those arms, and touch the bruises; I held my little one as close as I could for as long as I could. The rest of my work is to see and not be overwhelmed, to hold but not cling, especially not to the sadness and the whys that crowd into my throat.
Before I let go for the night, I pause and think of Mary on that Friday. Of David at the news of Absalom. Oh my daughter, Maria, my daughter, my daughter. Would that I could carry your burdens and monsters, if only for a day.