Cina

Before we were old enough to clobber, you were my toy and always smiled at me. And we were small enough to share a playpen and my blue blang and your bear, and have no concept of hurting each other. Ever.

And I was two and you were one and the only reason I remember this because your accident was the biggest thing that ever happened. Bigger than the owl that hooted from our pine tree in the backyard, bigger than the tiled fishpond where we played and bigger than Christmas, strange reason for gifts.

And the house on Webster Street was the safest home with its memories of Baum of Oz who had lived there once. It was a small, white picketed, one storeyed with a big yard, and fun and cozy even when the ghost lady was there.

And we were young and dad was king and mom, a regal queen. We were three little princesses who twice daily strolled to the Palo Alto Children’s Library, always walking because dad drove the putt-putt to work. And I would hold your hand even though it meant the bushes smacked me all the way to books and back. You were the cutest thing I had ever seen. You were my baby.

And even though the queen was cranky, she was heavenly so we excused her, and beauty erased many small harms in those early days. When those hazel eyes were on us and she was young, smiling and kind, we were the best and happiest family on the street until the next dark storm rolled in.

And one day, it all changed because of vacuuming. Boo and I were playing some game on the floor and she was so distracting. I knew you were in another room exploring and mom was vacuuming and muttering to herself, holding her sanity in fragile confines.

I knew I should be watching you but couldn’t hold my attention there, my mind slow as treacle and Boo so funny, and all I wanted was to laugh, and I forgot to remember you until that noise, that horrible, animal, raging noise and that smell of something bad and something burning. And then, I was around the corner and saw you, tiny but strong, convulsing and trembling, your face dark purple against your baby fine blonde hair and I laughed because I didn’t understand, didn’t see the wire at your feet. I thought you were playing, fun making, until mom grabbed you and I saw the huge blackened hole from mouth to where your cheek had been.

The rest is shock until you came home again. There were no stitches big enough to close the wound. Dad said the hole would grow smaller over time, that it would close, but when mom fed you orange juice, it burned your mouth and spilled its cheery contents from wound to table and she cried, you cried, we cried.

Over time, it closed to a puckered scar, a scar that required surgeries throughout your childhood, a scar that changed you because kids teased and changed mom because guilt is crushing. You grew feisty and tough. You were tough on me. You pounded me with words to crush my love of you. It was, it is, the one scar that mattered and in an instant, we were gone.

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