“She’s being bullied,” she confided to me.
Half whisper, half brimming with valour as she says this. These are the words of a mother, love-worn from seeking out a space of refuge for her daughter. Her words hint at tear stained conversations, fierce embraces and that way Mothers have of casting the wide net of their own hearts out across the wounded chasm their child has just revealed.
As she tells me this, I feel the weight of sixteen intervening years come crashing in and land like lead weights between my ribs, atop my collar bones. I see her daughter, a short distance away, and tucked in her shadow there is a memory, gilded in place by the passage of time. Sometimes I forget she ever existed, this 12 year old self trying so hard not to be too much; too loud, too skinny, too awkward, too hyper, too frizzy, too anything. Trying to be smaller, less visible. Attempting to slip under the wire of being noticed and targeted. No matter how small I felt, caught in the crosshairs, I couldn't shrink enough to get away. I couldn't shake my own untameable, excitable nature enough to peel the bullseye off my back.
I see her. I know her. I've been her. Young girls with feeling hearts so vast and tender they can barely find the edges of them to grip on to. That spindly way about them, unable to anchor their feet to ground into when the landscape seems to be in constant flux.
I wanted to hug her, lend the ease of the breath from my own lungs to her and lace in promises that there is more in life beyond this splice of time. Because I know this, too. There will be tears, and heartaches so big they glue you face down, heart down, to your mattress. There will be confusion over “how could they?” and “I wish I could be anyone else”. There will also be joy, so much of it that you will feel the edges of your skin widen to make room for it. There will be deep belly laughs, and wound healing loves of all kinds. I wanted to tell her that she's already perfect, that, if anything, she should be more and more herself. But I don't. She's eight feet away and has no idea I've been gifted this connection to her.
And so I wish it, I will it, I pray it – that she will, in the same time-won ways we all have, come to know that she is worthy, and needed, and beloved exactly as she is.