My daughter was three when she discovered her shadow. She’d noticed it before then, the way the light played tricks on the front porch steps, the figure spinning pirouettes across the sidewalk as she danced.
But it wasn’t until she was three that she really saw it, and had the flash of recognition that it was a part of herself.
Grab it! We teased. Try to pick it up!
She bent over, scooping air in her arms, and stood up frowning and frustrated.
It slipped, she said, I can’t get it, and again she attempted to grab hold and failed.
We play these games with her because she’s the youngest, the way you’d watch a kitten chase a dog. But we also do it as a way of showing her that some things are not meant to be held.
For years I struggled with the things that slipped through my hands. I couldn’t reconcile the people who’d disappeared themselves from my life, where they’d gone, why I wasn’t good enough to make them stay.
No one ever explained the idea of object permanence to me, though: that what once was still is. That even though we may not be able to touch it, the memory was real all the same.
These days I don’t feel that same pulling toward the things that come and go. My struggle now, with three sets of eyes on me, is more about the dark shadows that cling inside.
The selfishness. The pride. The judgement and the catty calling out.
The reaching for the phone, the acid words that spew.
The lurking fears that circle me, sharks waiting for a bite.
There is Valentine lace around the edges of my heart, and where it’s torn it bleeds.
We all have shadows, honey, I tell my sweet girl. I hope she’s listening.