Katunayaka [Trigger Warning: This entry features a description of childhood sexual abuse.]
I love my niece. She’s about to turn four this summer. She’s a ball of energy: running, jumping, crashing into walls while cackling.
Today, before she, her parents and I headed out, I assisted her in putting on her socks and shoes. I grabbed the miniature footwear and fabric, as well at the tiny human they belonged to.
“Give me your foot,” I said, my voice noticeably different, a higher pitched, younger, playful tone emitted from my lips. I slipped on one sock, then the other. I got both shoes on, and success; the child was shod and ready for the road.
As I worked, she clung to my arm, holding on like Tarzan swinging from a vine. I love every time I hug her. Kiss her face. Feel her strong compact little self next to me.
I want kids. I don’t know if I’ll ever have them, but I know I want them. It’s a scary prospect, another human life that not only would I help to create, but then care for. Nurture. Make a home for. Assemble a life for.
When I look at Eve, I see this beautiful little miracle, this sweet (mostly) innocent (the eye roll still kills me) tiny human who I cannot even express how much I love.
But there is something else I see when I look on her beautiful face. I see me, when I was little.
I was about her age when it happened.
My Mom and I were visiting my aunt and my cousins. We did this often. My aunt and her kids lived near our house. My Mom and my aunt were in another room. I was in the bedroom with one of my cousins playing.
That day my cousin wanted to play a new game. I don’t remember the name now. I’m glad of that.
She had me lie in the bed. My clothes still on. Under the covers. She got under the covers too. Got real close to me.
And then she started touching me. And I think kissing on me. And sucking on my neck. I don’t remember her actually doing that part, but I know it happened. My Mom found a bruise, a hickey, on her four year old daughter’s neck.
At a certain point, I don’t remember when, I pushed my cousin off of me and ran out of the room. I ran into my aunt’s bedroom. Found my Mom.
I don’t remember going home. I don’t remember going shopping. But I do remember jumping up and down on our bed (I still slept in the same bed with my Mom then). And I remember I was trying on clothes she’d bought. I remember her stopping me as I spoke gleefully. Her asking me where I got the bruise on my neck. Me telling her about my cousin and I playing.
The next thing I remember is being back at my aunt’s apartment. Rushed right over I think. And my mother yelling at her sister.
I can’t remember if it was my aunt who explained it, or if it was my cousin who told me, but the inspiration for her game was a daytime soap opera. My six or seven year old cousin was just imitating what she saw on TV.
My mother never mentions that day. We don’t talk about it. I don’t think we’ve ever spoken about it since it happened.
My aunt wonders why I don’t like her. She’s said as much to my mother. I can’t point to that incident as the deciding factor. My aunt is emotionally needy and occasionally emotionally abusive towards my mother, not to mention craves my acceptance though I cannot understand why. Those things, more than her ignorance as a parent, make her less than appealing to me.
This life is not easy. Or fair. Or kind. When I look at my niece, I see innocence. I see happiness. And hope. And possibility. I see someone I would protect with my own life.
For now, she doesn’t know all the bad things that could happen to her. Eventually, she will. But, for now, I like teaching her about coins. And watching Wreck It Ralph with her. And helping her put on her shoes.
I get why parents want to stop time. To savor this moment forever. Because it’s the loss of that hope, that joy, that innocence gone, that means their kids aren’t kids anymore.
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