Spying the cat, he wriggles a “Let me go, Grandma” message, and I do. I set him down, knowing he’ll be back. He races in that precious, Lurch-like fashion of his toward Felix, who is stretched to capacity near the wood stove, and ignorant of his impending tail-tug. Gage is quick, but Felix is faster. He abandons the hearth to save himself, and hides just out of of chubby-finger-reach under the love seat.
Grandma, Gage’s eyes say to me, kitty gone. Get kitty.
Instead, I pick him up again, and rock his little body. Visions of Grandma-less Haitian babies still swim in my head … babies who have never felt carpet beneath their toddly feet; never watched Micky and Minnie while munching buttered toast in a plush high chair.
Grandpa comes through the back door carrying a stack of firewood. “Ohhh!” Gage sucks in a dramatic breath and wriggles again. This is his most favorite activity of all: supervising while Grandpa stirs and feeds the fire. He doesn’t yet know how all that flickery orange magic happens, but I can see that he’s determined to do it himself at one point. And that’s why I supervise him.
He rests a small, smooth hand against Dave’s back, and I remember another child’s fingers, laid against my arm, tracing the small scars I’ve gathered over a lifetime. Her skin was rich and brown and lovely; her touch light and full of questions. What happened to you? she would have asked, if she only had the words. I took my own hand and traced the scars on her tiny forearm, where no scars should be on a five-year old girl. Where is your mother? I would have asked, except that you don’t ask that of a baby.
We shared a long look, the beauty and I, and I prayed she would see Jesus in my eyes. You are loved, little one.
Gage leans toward Grandpa, and the game begins. Hold me. Grandpa takes him, and Gage rests his head briefly on Dave’s shoulder. Then he swings back toward me. Now you hold me. I take him from Dave, and he deigns to rest his little head on my shoulder too, but only for the span of two seconds. Then it’s Dave’s turn again.
In this room, there is no dearth of waiting arms. But across a wide ocean, it is not so.
Please hold me.