Sandra Cisneros refers to Russian dolls in her short piece, Eleven, in which she says, “Because the way you grow old is kind of like an onion or like the rings inside a tree trunk or like my little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other, each year inside the next one….”

You can listen/watch Sandra read this piece here.

Today I felt those layers, those tree rings, or those nested dolls while I was at work and doing errands. This morning my older daughter, J., texted me that my younger daughter, A., did not want any texts or phone calls because she was digging graves.

Today is the first day A. could get back to her home near the Russian River after the flood.

Before the river started to recede

I met with intervention reading groups; coaching and cheering them on. Then, in between, I’d ache with the radio silence. I knew A.’s chickens, aka “the Girls” didn’t make it. And I don’t know how the turtles be okay either. And I knew how deeply this hurt my daughter.

As I pinpointed the ache in the center of my chest, there were other times, other layers, like when Alice was eight, or nine. The time when we discovered her beloved mice dead. Going up to the garage because I heard a wail, and finding Alice pulling the two mice out of their cage to hold them to her heart. Apparently being in the open, instead of in Alice’s room, caused a cat to stalk or pounce on the cage and the poor rodents had heart attacks. She crumpled to a weeping two year old.

Or, when Miriam, her hamster died. A. gave her some alfalfa pellets (which looked a bit off) and they made her sick. She was crushed and I felt so unable to comfort her, as she was three inside.

Or when A. came home from school (at her Dad’s) to discover that the heat of the day had killed her rabbits. I heard about this with tears on the phone, and I remember wondering to myself, “Why do we do this?”

Alice is a great-hearted, caring soul who not only loves animals, but connects with everything and everyone around her. As a child those pet deaths left her temporarily inconsolable.

The scenes floated up in my mind today on the drive home, in the aisle of the hardware store, and when I texted J. in the late afternoon for any word. I relaxed a bit to hear that the pet funeral was over.

There were more layers for me, of course. I have watched my youngest work so hard to change careers and earn enough to be able to buy a house in Sonoma County, (miracle) where she works as a nurse doing home visits for patients after surgery. She loves each and every one of her patients, too, no matter what their age or need.

The county is still recovering from the wild fires last fall. The blazes came within miles of A’s home, two months after she bought it. She feared she’d lose it. When I looked at the flood progress photos texted from neighbors in boats, or from the bridge, I saw rings of her her hopes, her hard work, and her gumption to turn that place into something lovely. It’s been a long three days waiting to know whether the upper floor — the living space — was flooded. Thankfully, it was not!

Some of the echoes of times when my daughter didn’t want to talk with me took me to rings in my mind, too. The teen years and times I was simply not reachable. Now that I know she is safe in her house, and that as a family we’ve made plans to get dehumidifiers, fans, supplies, etc. and help up to her, all I can do now is hope that the rain that is predicted for tomorrow skips over her town, or is very light indeed. It will be good to drive up to help on Sunday. And let the flood of sorrow subside.

And, tending to my heart today, I think perhaps it is okay to feel 10 inside, or 20 years old…sigh.

6 thoughts on “Layers”

  1. I am sorry for her loss and yours. I have been watching the news of the devastation; it is unimaginable. You did such a beautiful job of bring Alice’s caring heart to life. Why is it that those with the tenderest hearts often have the most heartache?

  2. This sadness was palpable. Is palpable. We are so lucky to be surrounded by the gorgeous creatures we come to love, they do so much to save us, but losing them breaks something in us too. Your daughter’s spirit seems to be full of both grit and grace. The two essential ingredients brave and whole hearted living.

  3. I am sorry for the misfortune your daughter is feeling and going through and for the feeling of impotence you must feel not being able to console her in the way you wish. But she has a wonderful heart and it’s a reflection of the amazing love you have given her.

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