• The evening was balmy and a hint of warm spring showers hung in the air. A sprightly youth watched her grandfather stretch out on the porch bench, his arms crossed and eyes, lined with eighty years of infectious smiles, closed. The old wood of the bench creaked with every slight shift of his sagging weight. The small girl sat cross-legged beside him, fitting just between the metal armrest and his surgically replaced hip, whilst still garbed in her frilly Sunday morning dress, but her feet were bare and awfully dirty. It was a given that she’d play in the yard despite her mother’s anxious protests—“don’t stain your pretty dress!” –while her grandmother would simply chuckle and remark on how alike the little girl was to her worrisome mother, whose plump figure was once quite lithe and slender. Her mother would relax and smile, agreeing that she had once loved to run about the dirty cobble streets bare-foot, with tangled hair flowing free and a big old smile that told of not a care in the world.

    There was once a time in that grown woman’s life when she woke earlier than the sun could rise and dreaded those inevitable bed times. That woman once pouted while her mother scrubbed her face clean, and cried as a cruel pink comb tugged through stubborn tangles in a mane of unkempt curls. She couldn’t ever imagine spending so much of those silly sheets of green paper or oh-so elusive credit (whatever that is) on sticky make-up and designer clothing (she preferred stained t-shirts and shorts) and high heels that were agonizingly difficult to play kick ball in.

    And yet, little girls never stay little. The world was once a huge place full of mysteries and oddities exploited in play-pretend games of unicorns and princesses and knights in shining armor. The years passed and she knew of boys and their deceitful ways, of secret jealousy over those pretty girls that spurned on hour-long shopping sprees, and piles of arithmetic homework that turned into paperwork that morphed into bills and taxes and marriage and birth certificates.

    Only half a dozen years earlier than that balmy Spring evening a full-grown woman lay on a hospital gurney, sweat pouring from her forehead as she screamed profanities. She cursed her “god-damned son a b***h f—cking” husband for cursing her with the pain that ripped through her entire abdomen, sending shockwaves of pain throughout her legs and head and breasts and everywhere. But it passed, and her sweet, beautiful little daughter was born, screaming her head off and punching at the empty air suffocating her, blood and gunk smearing porcelain skin and matting blond tufts of hair.

    That night the new-born, her little heart beating a soft rhythm, slept soundly between her parents. Her exhausted mother lay awake, smiling. The beauty of growing up, of maturing through life’s many trials and tribulations, is a cycle. She wondered vaguely if it was a cruelly vicious cycle, or one worth many hardships. It is difficult to move on from the simplicities of childhood into adulthood—to abandon hours of play time and shirking responsibilities. Yet, to watch the man she loved hold their baby girl was worth all of it.