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Ancient History

Lying in bed, listening to her

There’s a walnut in my neck. Or maybe it’s a gland that’s decided to be a walnut for a costume party. It’s enormous evidence that I am sick. It hit suddenly. One moment, I was strolling through the grocery store with five of the kids, feeling fine. Somewhere in the cracker aisle, I noted how my back was very achy. My legs were achy, too. I sorta hurt to swallow. Huh.

Within an hour, I was shivering under a blanket, feeling wretched. I made a weak attempt to cook dinner before my wise husband shooed me away. I went to bed early wearing pajamas, a sweater, and four layers of blankets. My teeth chattered. I rolled myself into a ball and tried to force sleep. Yesterday’s tragic events in Boston hijacked my thoughts. I pictured images I saw on the news and online, including a photo of a young man in a grey shirt. He had no feet.

And then her voice broke the darkness and tore away the images and—temporarily—made me forget my sick body. Thankfully, Aidan was helping with bedtime. I could hear my daughters’ voices in Beatrix’s room. I have no idea what Aidan said or did, but Beatrix started laughing. She has a laugh like no other. She’s six, but it’s deep, thick, almost gravely. It’s full of dark chocolate and deep space, making it apparent she understands humor. When she laughs at a joke, it’s a compliment. Of course, she will heartily approve of classic kid jokes like, “Why did the toilet paper roll down the hill? To get to the bottom.” Who doesn’t?

I started laughing at her laughing. It hurt and caused the muscle on top of my left foot to morph into a throbbing rock. But I kept laughing because two doors down, they were whole, healthy, safe, still largely unburdened.

They don’t know how a lump of a body buried under covers shakes when there is sobbing and when there is laughter. From the outside, they look the same. But, listen.

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