Wendy and Her Shadow
My shadow has a mind of her own. She’s small—only waist-high. And quite noisy for a shadow.
My shadow has smaller, daintier hands than I, and tiny, dancing feet. These days, my feet shuffle, sometimes lumber. Until my shadow insists I join her in dance. Her hair doesn’t match mine, either—loose curls billow where mine kink tight to my skull. But when she smiles, her cheeks swallow up her eyes, like mine.
Though we’re a pair, we’re not always in sync. Sometimes my shadow is tearful, when I am exasperated. Or exuberant, when I am overwhelmed. And every now and then, if I stop too quickly, my shadow is caught short and runs into my calves with a thump.
Sometimes my shadow’s presence—though small—feels weighty and demanding. I shut myself in the bathroom, breathing deeply, and here she comes to paw at the door, a high-pitched question– “Mommy? In ‘dere?”
I let her in with a pasted-on smile, and she’s glued once more to my leg in a fierce hug. One edge of my mouth quirks up—a genuine smile, now. My shadow is so very sweet.
When I least expect it, my shadow detaches and becomes a cloud. She ascends a stool to rearrange the silverware drawer. She floats up to the top of the kitchen table. The couch becomes a trampoline and launches her into the atmosphere.
I try to pull my cumulonimbus closer to me, on firm ground, but she resists—vapor leaking out of her eyes, cries for freedom rising.
My shadow and I are often at odds. Stood in our corners.
No climbing. No yelling. Don’t run so far!
Other times I’m her marionette: She pulls my strings like a pint-sized puppeteer.
“Open dis? Watch shows? Have dink, Mommy—chocolate milk?”
My shadow needs me most when I’m busy. Busy cooking. Busy cleaning. Busy scrolling on my phone—oops.
When I’m behind on laundry, my shadow helpfully comes in after I’ve left and turns off the washer mid-cycle. She undoes all my doing, dragging socks out of dresser drawers and dropping them back into the hamper. Eventually, I embrace the pandemonium and carry my shadow along. She rides high in the laundry basket, shrieking with glee—quite unexpected for a shadow, but quite adorable too.
On long walks, my shadow stretches further and further away, taking ten skipping steps for each stride of mine. Legs churning, curls lifted by the breeze, my shadow becomes light and air and freedom.
At the park she ascends further, my shadow, now my satellite. She stands for a moment at the top of the slide, catching my eye before scoot-scoot-scooting down, arms outstretched, fingers splayed—joy in motion.
Soon she bobs over and plants a kiss on my knee, then tugs me up and over to the swings. Bounces in anticipation, grinning. I swoop her up and together we spin until—plop!—down into the swing she goes. She floats higher, higher. But always returns, my shadow, my dear one.
I’ve been tired for years, it seems. My shadow though, if you were to ask her, never feels sleepy. She listens to lullabies with velvet eyelids shut as we rock. She cuddles lovies close until I close the nursery door, but once I’m gone, her eyes fly open. She makes secret plans with the giraffe and wraps the baby elephant in swaddling clothes.
No, it’s true, she insists—my shadow never, ever sleeps. Not even at midnight, when I tiptoe into her room and place a hand on her back and whisper a prayer. Feeling grateful, yet somehow bereft without my shadow in the dark.
But each morning, close on the heels of dawn, I gather my little shadow close once more. Her head rests under my chin, hair tickling my nose. Both of us breathe deeply. Both of us at peace here, together.
In my arms, her body is solid and strong and surprisingly warm for a shadow.
My shadow. My toddler. My daughter. My heart.
Chandra Blumberg is a stay-at-home mom of four whirlwind kids. When she isn’t changing diapers or tripping over toys, she writes stories to uplift and encourage other mamas.