Featured | Voices from the river

Room to breathe

Staying calm.

“Mom, has something like this ever happened to you?”

Clara looked up from the snowy tire ruts where she was struggling to keep her cross country skis.

“You mean like Coronavirus?”

“Yeah.”

I immediately thought of Sept. 11, 2001, when the planes flew into the towers, and tried to recall how I felt. I remembered the way students gathered around televisions in panic, news blaring around the clock, the intensity of uncertainty.

“No,” I told her. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this. Or felt quite like this.”

She nodded.

“Everyone keeps freaking out. And when they freak out, I freak out.”

Her face looked tight — much older than her seven years on this planet. Older than last week, than yesterday.

“But if everyone is calm?”

“Then, I feel calm,” she said.

She knocked some snow off her skis and her brother, Otto, bellered from his backpack.

“Want down!” he insisted. “Want down!”

I patted him, reached for my stash of candy — “inspiration” for staying in his seat — and looked at Clara again.

“What about when you’re outside?” I asked.

She looked at the creek as the sound of water bubbled up through the pines.

“Calm,” she said.

She skied off down the road, head down, feet “shush-shushing” through the sticky spring snow. I handed Otto a sucker and followed, singing to him as we went:

O mothers let’s go down
Come on down, don’t you wanna go down?
Come on mothers, let’s go down
Down in the river to pray