Things I Have Observed in Silence

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I am six years old. The bathtub is full of mediocre bubbles. I am on my back and my hair is floating around my head like so much kelp in the water. The ceiling straight above me has an aging water stain from the ice storm the year before. I stay there until the water turns cold, wondering if anyone misses me.
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It is a spring afternoon and I have come to the Art Museum with my parents. It is odd to have my dad with us. This is the kind of outing usually reserved for me and my mom. Alone. The wind is blowing like a gale but the sun shows so much promise. We are on Art Hill and people are flying kites. They bob and dip and dance. They feel like hope to me. So much so that I go home and write about it in my journal.
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I have just braved a gradual hill on my blue AMF ten-speed bicycle and I have stopped to catch my breath. I am not running away from anything, exactly, but I want to be alone. Pushing those pedals hard pulls me inward. Deep. I am better, somehow, when I return home.
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We are at the ocean’s edge. My dad’s graying hair is stained pink by the sunrise and he looks joyful. I stare at his face when he isn’t looking at me. He invited me to come look for conch shells and watch the sun come up and now here we are and the hair on my arms stands up. The sand sinks under my feet, the receding foam and water stealing it from beneath my soles.
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He yells at her as if she is a child. She is not. She has kids. She works Monday through Friday and earns a paycheck. She makes dinner every night. She dotes on him hoping that will satisfy his deep hunger. It does not. He is all hot air and alcohol and venom. She loves him. I sit on the other side of the door. My palms are sweaty.
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It is lunch hour, senior year in high school. I walk around the block so that I can smoke without anyone seeing me. My purse has a secret pocket and that is where I hide my Camels and lighter. I feel powerful and confident and beautiful. Then I go back to class.
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I watch him. He is knowledgeable in subjects that I am not. He is young. Every once in a while, he looks at me. He smiles. I notice his hands. His fingers are long and ruddy. Like an artist. I wonder what they would feel like wrapped around my own hands. Later on, my hands will make art but his hands will cook for me. They will often smell of garlic.
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We are in our State Capitol’s rotunda. I have brought my children. Our skin color is in the minority. There is singing. There is shouting. There is lamenting. The air is heavy with importance. We listen the best we know how to. There is so much we don’t know. A woman who smells like bread kisses my son while he sits in his stroller. He giggles at her. Something arcs between the two of them. I want in.
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We stand in a room whose ceiling opens to the sky. Light pours in and drips off of my shoulders. Pools at my feet. A drumbeat slowly fills every corner, every hidden space. Like water, it finds any opening. Like love, it surrounds and supports. A song is being sung over me. Over us. It is the very first song, ever sung. It has never stopped birthing love. It cannot not be.
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There are tubes and machines and pulsing sounds that are not natural. Not real. She is real. But she is dying. I cup the silky skin of her face in my hands. I try harder than anything to remember what this feels like because I will miss this. Her. Everything. The machines stop but she does not. Until she does. Until she lets go. I do not let go as easily.
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I nurse him for the last time. I trace his golden curls and hold his pudgy fingers and I drink him in. This thread has grown thin. But, oh, how it has held us. I see so clearly now how we are shaped by that which holds us. How we are always being made new. I sigh. He smiles. How does he know this so well?

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Holly Grantham
Holly is a wife, very relaxed homeschooling mom of three boys, snapper of photos, coming of age writer and a soul drowning in grace. After years in Atlanta where she attended college, married the love of her life and lived in an intentional community, she found her way back to her home state of Missouri. She now lives in an antebellum stone house, raises chickens (sometimes) and pretends that she lives in the country.
Holly Grantham

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