I held my daughter’s hand as we walked along the busy suburban street. We were off to buy her new school shoes. It was sunny and there was a light breeze. Cars whooshed by. We chatted about her day.
School had gotten off to a shaky start for her. She had heaved with sadness. Tears tumbled down her cheeks. She had chosen to remain silent, eyes begging me not to leave her. As proud parents held their phones aloft taking photos of their squeaky clean children in pressed uniforms and shiny shoes standly proudly by their new desks, our child held tightly to my leg and turned her face from her peers. School was not of her choosing. There would be no smiling for the camera. She was willing herself home to her bed and favourite television show. She was willing herself into our loving arms.
The day had gotten off to a shaky start for me too – I’d had to pull her sobbing body off of me and dart out the classroom, avoiding the concerned looks of the other parents. Heartbreaking, yet predictable. It had been a long day for both of us.
I thought a trip to the shoe store would help. It always helps me. We looked in the shop windows as we passed them – dog accessory store, chocolate shop, clothes shop. None of them stood out enough to stop and peer in to, she was too excited to get new sandals. I was relieved to be holding her hand. We ambled along together. The day was almost over.
Then I caught a glimpse of two people in the glass – a gorgeous little girl with the fairest of hair, wearing her oversized dress, her gentle smile and tired eyes, holding hands with a woman. The woman was doing the “wobble walk” that pregnant and overweight women do as their weight shifts with each step. She looked like a toy of old which would topple from side to side, yet never over-balance – a precarious footing. Her shoulders were hunched, her hair frizzy. Her belly was extended and her bottom had an extra roll of fat which sat just below the top of her stretch pants, it pushed up and out when her legs moved. Her face looked blotchy and her eyes heavy. She was doing the shuffle.
I watched them walking along hand-in-hand for awhile. I didn’t recognise the woman in the mirror, but the girl was mine.