Just Us

It’s just us out here. Me and her.

It’s cold and windy and the while the water looks promising,  I don’t quite feel the same promise as I would if I had the day to myself and conditions were...different.

I’ve been thinking a lot about legacies lately, about what we take, what we leave, and what we leave behind. Today is no different. Today especially. It’s days like these that make me think - cold days on a little scrap of public land with an unassuming river that make me evaluate what I contribute to this duo of me and her.

She is bundled like a papoose, stocking hat shoved so far down over her ears she can only squint out under the brim of it, her fleecy layers spilling out in waves of pink and white and flowers and sparkles - all the things little girls get dressed in - wrapped, booted, gloved and stuffed into a pack with more pink, more flowers.

She used to ride right in my waders - wading belt cinched down, head popping out from behind the black elastic that kept the waders up. Surely a “don’t” in the responsible parenting books, but we caught fish and when we weren’t doing that, we kept each other warm and entertained.

Those days seem forever ago. Now she squirms. Begs to be let down. Demands snacks - cranberries, granola bars, chocolate, cookies, juice, water, milk, all in the same sentence. It’s a list of neverending wants - always the things I didn’t bring, never the things I did. When she’s up she wants down and when she’s down she wants up. She sings. And cries. And screams. Then laughs.

Sometimes I feel like I have a psychotic monkey strapped to my back.

Sometimes I lose my patience and wonder how this duo will ever survive each other.

But then, she’s back and she kicks up in her pack, wraps her chocolate covered hands around my head, burying her face in my hair whispering “Mama,” leaving me with nothing but sticky handprints on my forehead and a heart turned to mush.

I didn’t think about things like this, these heavy legacy-laced thoughts back when she still fit in my waders - back when her dad and I were still trying to work it out and were busy putting down roots: a house, 80 acres, tulip bulbs for the spring, a spruce tree for the yard. And when those things went up for sale, when the life I had planned for her put on a price tag for someone else’s buying - I began to wonder what exactly I would contribute, what I would leave for her?

The wind has died down and we sit on the edge of the bank, rod in the grass beside us. She’s tired and sits quietly on my lap, mesmerized by the moving water. We have checked slow moving pools, toodled around with streamers and leeches and big, buggy nymphs. Nothing is lost on her. Between begging for the stash of M and M’s I keep in my coat pocket, she’s watched, watched the line, watched the tip of the rod bend.

Now she looks at it with interest, reaching her little hand for the cork.

“Mama?”

She looks up at me.

“Mama? Fish?”

And she’s got me. There is this and only this. The doubts grow silent and all there is and all there needs to be is us. Me and her and a little scrap of public land with an unassuming river.

Perhaps, just perhaps, we will have this.

 

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