[ people - october 10 ]
It was a hot day of clashing. My daughter is rounding the corner from childhood to adolescence; the interior struggles in her body often come out fully armed against me.
We had spent the day cleaning her room – I had hoped the promise of the swim in the pond would push her along, would give speed to her careful rearrangement of dried-out markers and scattered beads in one of her desk drawers before she even contemplated the mounds of dirty clothes, school papers, partially read books and flotsam that provide a nesting ground for the clothes moths. Every time I went upstairs to help, the frustration escalated to a metallic simmer – cartoon samurai warriors floated in the air between us, clashing their swords together, as I struggled not to scream at the glacial pace of progress. I was hot and sticky from cleaning the rest of the house and scratching at being inside on one of the first (perhaps the only) warm and thick day of June. Showers came and went all day but the hot density of the air taunted, begged to be plunged through towards the waters of the pond so close.
7.30... Almost too late to go, my patient husband holding off dinner, both of us trying to help her along but wanting her to make the project her own… finally she comes to me in tears and I realise I can no longer scoop her up off the ground; her body has grown too long and gangling for me to gather her as I once did in my arms – an embrace or containment that made me feel as though I could hold her in, make it better, cleanse her in my holding before returning her to the rough ground. Now when I try to pick her up, her feet scrape the floor and she is already moving away when I let her go. Together we make a last assault on the room – and miraculously the floor is clean, the clothes put away… so on the bike.
As we push up Highgate Hill on our tandem, I welcome the sweat that stings my eyes; with each pump of the pedal the conversation between us eases in confrontation, relaxes into reflection. The air is thick with humidity and evening bugs, scent of wild thyme and grasses, the green of the Heath swarms us as we get closer to the pond. The air is a warm cloud – saturated with the evening sun and heavy with humidity – if it were actually raining it would not feel so different. Into the changing room at the pond, we peel off sweaty clothes and our angers and finally… the velvet thickness of the water is just sharper than the air – I push away from the roped ladder and merge every fragmented piece of me with the tangy pond. I watch my daughter collapse into the water, and see her smile just for herself as she too relaxes, shudders, elongates. The thickness of the air, the hushed voices of the other swimmers, the call of the mother ducks, the calm of the lifeguards – all combines into one gorgeous fluid moment. The velvet air prologues the water and the pond gives my daughter the clean embrace I wished for her.