For those of you who did not read this post in 2015, the bottom portion refers to my lovely friend Pauline and her eldest daughter, Elizabeth, named for me, and a wonderful human being. I said goodbye to Pauline almost six years ago. She died of cancer at 53. Last week, I also bid a tearful and private goodbye to her daughter. She was married, recently pregnant, a graphic artist and a mother who leaves behind a five year old girl and a shocked family. She was a victim of COVID 19.
It was the hair color that I noticed first. You know, the shade that every unimaginative person on the planet refers to as “carrot-top?”
As the little girl’s feet moved back and forth, her head would dip, a syncopation fathomable only to her but amusing nonetheless. She was all arms and legs and flying braids as she turned, and spying my chair in the aisle of the store, flew toward me, saying, “Wow, your chair is cool.” To which she added, apropos of nothing, “Do you like my shoes?”
Normally, a late middle-aged woman in a wheelchair in twenty-first century America does not elicit this reaction. I glanced around, looking for the face of a worried parent, and finding no one, smiled as this small whirlwind skidded to a stop in front of me.
“Hello,” I offered. “You’re full of energy today.”
“Yep,” she said. I just got new shoes, see?”
Presenting her feet for my inspection, she removed a lollypop from a shirt pocket, unwrapped it and pushed it into her mouth, waiting for my reply.
Looking at the side of one shoe, I noted the redheaded hero to girls the world over, stating, “Oh, Pippi Longstocking was one of my favorites when I was a kid.” This was met with, “Mine, too. My grandma reads to me. We came to buy socks.”
Before we could take the discussion further, an older woman appeared, and saying, “Excuse us,” promptly seized the little girl’s arm, pulling her away as I bid them both a nice day.
It wasn’t until I was outside the store expecting the bus that I noticed tears welling, seeing in my mind’s eye, my late friend, Pauline, and her eldest girl, their two red heads close together, long ago, the first Pippi book, spread upon on their laps. Proof positive that the grieving brain makes strange connections.