She looked a little tired, a little distracted. I didn’t catch her name, or her children’s names for that matter. She kept refering to them as ‘sister’ and ‘sister’. She was about 5″4 and a little on the skinny side. Her short black hair had that unkept look that Holywood actresses spend hours trying to perfect.
It was only 10:30, but the park was already packed. There were children milling around everywhere. She had a 5 year old and a one year old with her. The older child was running from one structure to the next, and she was following distractedly while carrying the younger child. She didn’t seem to be all there. Her body was in the park with us, but her mind was far far away. Nevertheless she was incredibly gentle with her children, each one of her movements a testimony to her love for them. While the older child chatted a mile a minute she hummed and hawed without seeming to pay any attention, this was apparent to all of the adults around, but her daughter probably never noticed. The baby wiggled and crawled around as the mother guided her movements, absentmindedly making sure she was safe .
Every few minutes the older child would demand that her mother help the baby do something with her.
“I want to go down the slide with her.”
She wordlessly put the baby between the older child’s legs.
“Now I want to go down with her on my belly.”
A second later the older child was on her back and the baby was belly to belly with her.
“Now put her on my back.”
As she was about to put the baby on her back another mom observed the slightly anxious look on her face and spoke directly to the older child.
“I don’t think your mom really likes this game.”
The mother gave a little tired laugh. It was obvious to everyone around that she didn’t have the energy or the willpower to do any more than just that.
I wanted to stop her and ask if she was ok, but she seemed so lost, so distant that I felt uncomfortable even thinking it. Each time she looked in my direction I smiled at her, but it was as if she was looking right through me.
When the baby started to whine she picked her up and murmured
“Let’s go get sister. It’s time to go home and take a nap.” Her voice was devoid of emotion, she was speaking as though by rote.
I had no trouble imagining her walking home, not really listening to her chatty child, getting home and putting the baby to bed. Maybe she would let her older child watch a video while she rested on the couch. Maybe she would start making lunch for everyone.
However a part of me thinks that maybe this simple scenario is all wrong. Something made me pick her out off all the other moms I could have been observing. A particularily arresting quality to her empty stare. Something compelling about the way she went through the motions of playing with her children. I had the feeling that she had just heard some terrible news and was having trouble processing it. It seemed that she had decided to pretend everything was alright until she could come up with a way to deal with what was going on.
This week Sunday Scribblings sent us out to observe someone in our community with the aim of turning them into a potential character for a potential writing piece. Go visit them to discover more interesting characters.