Do you know about those optical illusion pictures that appear to be one thing when you look at them in a specific way?
And if you look at them in another way, they change into something else. One minute you see a porcupine and then it changes into a teddy bear.
My niece and nephew are my best friends, but I am not theirs.
There is no one they love more than my mother, their grandma. Maybe their parents, I guess, but grandma is a close second and there is in fact no one they like more. She is most certainly their BFF.
They are always touching her: her face, her hands. They never let her leave without first begging her to stay, often accompanied by tears. The next time they see her—even if it’s only a short time later—they’ll run faster than I’ve ever seen kids run, blowing past anyone or anything in their way.
They’ll leap onto her torso, wrapping their little legs around her waist. They’ll immediately release all of their breath, letting every muscle drop into dead weight—her body is their safe place. She is their human teddy bear.
I can’t remember the last time I hugged my mother. It’s been decades. For when I met her, she was a porcupine. And that’s hard to unsee.
There’s ease when she talks to her grandchildren. Her words are slow, soft, deliberate, patient. Her smile is wide and beaming and genuine. Her eyes glow with awe when she looks at them. I’ve never seen that look before.
I think this ease comes from knowing that she is not the main person responsible for their upbringing.
Because of this, she can finally release the breath she’s been holding for decades while raising my sister and me. A person can suffocate from that pressure. And it’s hard to do things like smile and have a relaxed conversation when you can’t even breathe.
But now things are different—she is different. Time has turned her quills to plush. This can happen with people, I’ve found.
Now she looks at me with loving, patient eyes, her arms stretched out to me, “I’m a teddy bear now.” And I believe her.
I take a few steps forward. But my legs stop working. Frozen in time, they insist, “There is pain there.”
Inside of me, there is a civil war.
The brain fires, Things change. People change. It’s safe now. But the body fires back a simple but stifling, no.
I take a few steps back.
This process is long, tedious, and difficult and honestly, it hurts. It feels like having to re-break a bone that never healed straight.
But I keep trying. A person can’t mend properly, otherwise. And I really want to like the best friend of my best friends.
I want to see her as they do—the way she is now—in the present.
I want to unfreeze from the past. I want to thaw. I want to be warm. I want to move on.
The brain makes fast decisions but the body, slow revisions.
The whole of me inches closer every day.