And there I am on the busy playground, looking up at my daughter with her two stuffed monkeys as she is about to put them down the slide. It is still a little cool out, winter into spring, and the clouds blot the sun, making it easy to see her clearly.
Down the slide goes one monkey, this one not quite as precious to Ess, this one the emissary into the world, spiraling down towards the ground. And up the slide charges someone new, one taller and bigger and stronger than my daughter. I had anticipated this: aware that these stuffed toys, so obviously having only spent time indoors, away from rain and dirt and vicissitudes, would attract all kinds of attention.
And so it seemed to go in slow motion, this new person’s run up the slide, and the picking up of the monkey and the taunting of my daughter. This other human, bigger and taller, with an affect neither sing-song nor menacing but rather flat as to almost seem bored, holding my daughter’s monkey aloft and saying “get it. get it. get it.” And my puzzled daughter, knowing she couldn’t reach it, wondering why she was being asked to, watching as the monkey, instead of being talked to, comforted, told what would happen, instead of being set down gently, ice cold water scrubbed away from the bottom of the slide, instead of being treated with tenderness and care, was flung indiscriminately back down the spiral again, not even worth the effort required to hurl it away into the distance.
The interloper drifted away and I picked Ess up, wrapping my arms tightly around her, whispering in her ear “you did nothing wrong” and pointing out other slides, other downward spirals that I thought might distract but I knew carried the same risk. It was all I could do when faced with the world again, this time walking my child through it.
It’s harder the second time through.