The fall, not too hard, but the knee is scraped. The sight of red ragged lines across her leg ensures that the tears will be more serious than the pain, and will last longer. Eventually, safe in my arms the sobs subside. Or perhaps it was the sight of a friend, a sister still having fun, still laughing and running and oblivious to the tragedy that has temporarily befallen her sibling.
One last hitch of breath and then stoicism. Will you wipe away my tears? The sign that the turmoil has passed; that the sad child is ready once again to be happy. The cleansing. Of course I will, and I wipe them gently with the heel of my hand, kiss away their salty residue, set her back on her feet, steady her before she runs away, sated, healed.
You are a ham, we tell her, You are a ham sandwich. Her quickness to laugh, to be silly, to entertain matched only by the quickness with which the storm clouds can invade, the quickness with which her fuse can be lit; can detonate.
But the storm doesn’t last long, and even when I am the cause of the shift in weather, she always runs back to my arms imploring me, through her grip, her wailing, to make it better. And soon, she lifts her head from my shoulders, tells me she feels better, and then the magic words: Will you wipe away my tears?
Even when I am the source of her unhappiness, of boundaries enforced, of impulses denied, I remain the source of her comfort.
Her infancy has passed and childhood is fleeting. Independence, so richly earned, such a cause for pride, a stark reminder that she grows. And they grow up but they also grow away. Please let it always be like this: the need for my embrace and the certainty that I can always make it better. Please let her always trust my touch and my closeness. Please let her always know, even when she is too big to ask, that I will always wipe away her tears.