Sunday, December 14, 2014

disembarkations

Her mother carefully folded together the newspaper into the shape of a delicate little ship. She stood on the edge of the bridge, clinging to the railing. Her eyes wandered back and forth between the clear blue water below, and her mother's hands, swiftly and delicately crafting a small bark out of the paper, the newsprint smudging from the warmth of her fingertips.
Gently, tenderly, her mother tucked in the corners, smoothed out the creases, opened a flap here, made two corners meet one another, until she had crafted a dear little ship.
The small girl eagerly reached for the newspaper craft, but her mother checked her hungry motion for but a moment.
Behind her mother, the black-eyed Susans swayed in the summer wind. Her mother reached for two flowers, and stuck them in the prow of the boat, two glad little banners to celebrate the christening of their small paper boat.
One for your wish, said her mother, and one for mine.
The child closed her eyes and wished very hard.
For the new doll that she had seen in the department store window.
For her father to bring mints home with him from the office tonight.
For her sister to not eat the last leftover slice of birthday cake.
For summer holiday to last forever.
For her mother to never grow older, so that they could always run together in the park, and make paper boats on their favorite bridge together.
What are your wishes, Mama? the girl asked her mother.
Her mother smiled.
I wished, she said, that our little boat will sail very far before the water soaks it through.
What will happen, asked the girl, when the water soaks through it?
It will sink, said the mother.
The girl was disappointed. She had hoped their boat would sail down the stream all the way down to the river.
She had heard that the river reached to the ocean. But she could hardly believe that such an ordinary thing as her river reached all the way to something so grand and full of occasion as the shores of the ocean.
How far will our boat go, Mama? asked the girl.
Let's follow it and find out.
The girl leaned over the railing of the bridge, and held the boat out over the edge.
Her fingers trembled, as she felt the immense anticipation of a boat on the eve of its maiden voyage and its doom.
She let it fall, and it landed with a miniature splash on the crystal surface of the stream.
She ran down in front of her mother to the creek's bank.
The small current carried the boat gently away from them, but not so fast that they could not keep pace.
The girl and her mother followed the boat as long as the boat could stay afloat, which was not, sadly, for long.
As they reached the third bend in the creek bank, the boat, saturated with water, slowed, and began to sink in a whirlpool, underneath the rippling water.
The girl watched, dismayed, at the ending of her toy, and yet she was surprised to feel inside her heart a certain, small grain of satisfaction.
Why, Mama, am I sad that our boat has sunk. And yet, the fact that it is gone now still makes me happy?
It has come to its natural conclusion, her mother said, with a trace of sadness in her voice.
That small twinge of sadness made the girl look up into her mother's eyes.
But the eyes were smiling, although they shimmered as they reflected the sunlight on the water.
So the girl said nothing, but watched as the two yellow flowers bobbed on the surface of the stream, their petals floating on the current, small promises that their wishes would one day reach the sea.

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