Yesterday we bickered over the crumpled parent letter in her backpack
which has become an oversized shell,
filled with found rocks and plastic bags and an old banana peel and chip bits. Mom, she sighed, hefting the pack and the day
onto the sofa with an eye roll. Slam of a textbook
on the table, and then a few deliberate stomps
marked the Leave me alone trajectory
to her room
where a blank screen and clicks would animate
a world far from laundry, from cleaning brooms.
Now this morning I’m watching her walk to class.
Her hair is in two long braids, a repeated pattern of embedded hands
tendering their gestures of comfort, of feminine and loved containment,
touching her coltish back and arms as if to coax her forward.
Ponytails. Pigtails. The animal of her hair
marks its own innocence, and see
how she rushes to the gates?
A leap over one stair
and now another
and, turning one last time to wave,
she disappears into the swirl.
I’m in the car. The radio is silent.
Near the bay a train calls.
Her childhood turns into a memory like sunlight through glass
and becomes something I would hold onto,
would have held onto,
would have loved more,
had I known.
But I didn’t. We don’t. We never do.
I turn the key and drive home.
Johanna Rauhala is a mother, a teacher, and a writer. She has written essays for Edutopia and has had poetry published in the Finnish North American Literary society’s “Kippis” magazine.