Under the tree drenched in pink blossoms, she stands gazing up at a tiny bird nestled amidst the branches, so attentive, so focused.
“Come on, Jewel!”
We are supposed to be walking from the preschool entrance to the car, her twin pulling me toward the vehicle’s door and the treat that I promised inside.
“Let’s go! It’s time to get into the car.”
I call again, my patience dwindling, the list of what we’re supposed to do repeating in my head. The longer she dawdles, the later we’ll be for their doctor’s appointment; the doctor will take whoever is already there ahead of us, making us wait; then, when we get to the food store, the workday will have ended so there will be more people stopping for dinner; checkout lines will be long and we’ll get perilously close to the tantrum hour (that time where anything will set off one of them and shopping carts will be abandoned, screaming child rushed outside); then we’ll sit in traffic and the 10 minutes it normally takes to get home will drag into 25 or 30; dinner will be late; they’ll go to bed late and wake up the next morning more tired and crankier than usual.
“Jewel, I’m going to count to three….”
A spring breeze whips up, kissing her cheek. She turns smiling.
Normally wind makes her uncomfortable. She whines, “My eyes are watering” whenever swift flowing air assaults them. Usually, her eyes and eyelids turn red in milliseconds.
Today, though, nothing. She’s enamored of the invisible, of the things that make the world go around that she can’t see much less understand. She is transfixed by wind and change.
“Take my hand! We’re in a parking lot!” I try again.
But she remains steadfast, her attention back to the tree.
“But this tree wasn’t pink before. Look!” She points, admiring the flowers.
“Don’t they smell nice?”
I sniff the air and there is a light sweetness to it.
Then, woosh. A powerful gust shivers the whole tree. Branches bang into each other. Leaves shake. Tiny petals float down, swirling in the air. She twirls, delighted.
“A petal storm!”
From where this phrase came, I have no idea, except, perhaps, my own giddiness at witnessing this moment.
“A petal storm!” she gushes, and her sister breaks from my grasp and runs the three or four feet to her.
“Wheeee,” they laugh, holding hands together, circling around.
Beauty envelopes them in a few seconds of grace. Time has slowed for a moment, allowing me to savor the sight of them dancing in a swirl of petals. Eventually, the wind disappears and the petals fall to their feet, landing in a giant pink cloud all around them. Above their heads and below their feet, the world has turned a lovely shade of rose.
“Oh my goodness, a petal storm! You’re so lucky. Only a few special little girls ever get to see a one of those, much less dance in one!” I say, hoping they won’t be disappointed that the moment’s gone.
“Just like fairies?” Jewel asks, three year-old innocence alive in her.
“Yes, just like fairies.”
“Mmmoooooommmmm, re…remem…remember yesterday when we found fairy dresses?” Pearl chimes in.
In our local arboretum, there’s a fairy trail with tiny houses, hamlets, auditoriums, and if you look closely in amongst the trees, clothespin fairies.
“And remember how I found a special gem? How they left it just for me?”
An iridescent glass coin imprinted with a sun was pressed into the dirt. Jewel discovered it during our last visit. She held it closely in the palm of her hand for the rest of the day, and for the day after that, and the day after that. It’s her own little piece of magic. Evidence that fairies exist.
“The fairies weren’t flying yesterday…” Pearl says. Everything past is yesterday, whether last week, last month, last year. Yesterday.
“No, we didn’t get to see the fairies fly. But we did see the dresses they hung to dry, didn’t we?” I remind her, keeping the illusion alive.
“Yes!” Jewel chimes in.
“And weren’t they pretty?” I continue. She nods in agreement.
“OK, its time to get in the car now,” I encourage again.
But they wait, hoping for another wind, to be caught in another petal storm. The sky is quiet, no distant rustling of leaves indicating another gust. They turn, heading back to the car, to me, then stop. Jewel bends and picks up a few petals from the ground, and hands some to Pearl. They smile and put them in the pockets of their dresses. Then she calls me, “You need some too, mama,” and hands me the soft pink circles, like fingerprints from the tree.
“So what is our special treat?” Pearl asks as she climbs into the car and sits in her car seat.
Today, I have two blue M&Ms for each of them.
“Chocolate! My favorite!” Pearl cheers.
Their sense of delight at wonders natural and pretend is worth nurturing. Sometimes, I try to orchestrate these moments, taking them to a butterfly enclosure where, with luck, a butterfly might land on them (it doesn’t) and going outside after a rain shower to see if we can spot a rainbow (we don’t). Those precious moments can’t be planned; they can only be appreciated when they happen. For now, the magic is gone, but it lives in their pockets, decorates their thoughts and inspires their imaginations. If they had gotten into their car seats as they were supposed to, we would have missed it.
Guest post written by Becki Melchione. Becki's essays about young adult cancer, infertility and raising twins have appeared inBrain, Child; Literary Mama; Cargo Literary; and Kaleidoscope Magazine and have been anthologized in Oh Baby! True Stories About Conception, Adoption, Surrogacy, Pregnancy, Labor, and Love and Multiples Illuminated. She hopes that all the time she spends playing pretend with her twin daughters will help animate her writing.
Photo by N'tima Preusser.