It took me by surprise. Though I had planned the haircut appointment for weeks, I hadn’t thought about the park that stood in front of the salon doors. It’s a park that we know well. Webb climbed its ladders and soared down its slides. It is where we spent our last Sunday evening as a complete family, stretching out the hours of a perfect fall day with a picnic in the park.
Although I am running late for the appointment, I feel memory’s wave gaining steam and I pull the car to the side of the road, hoping I may duck underwater to ride this one out. Lord, let this wave be gentle to me, sliding over my shoulders as I crouch underwater. But its power is quicker than my defense, and I am swept away.
“Hi little kitty. Come to me kitty.” His knees are bent and his hands are on his thighs. His crouching levels his eyes with the cat. It is the first time I’ve heard him refer to a cat as a “kitty” and I take note of the new word. These new words, they’ve been popping up all over the place. He’s threading them together to form sentences and this blossoming swells me proud. “Time to head home, Webb. Say goodbye and come hop in the car.” He doesn’t dispute. “Goodbye kitty,” he whispers as he whips his head around and runs, focused and controlled, to the car. It’s a simple memory, but it hits me hard. Realizing that it is too late to duck, I find my footing and stand firm to meet it head on.
My head finds the steering wheel, and I grip its rubber hard. Memories of this Sunday evening flood the car and fresh tears swim in their salty waters. My eyes close as my mind kicks into gear, reminding me to breathe. In and out, up and down, breath returns and I float in these waters.
Drenched with sadness, I walk into the salon to have my son-touched hair cut to the ground. Locks that Webb mangled and tangled now pile on the floor to be swept away. New hair grows that he will never curl around his small, dimply finger. The stylist chits and chats while I smile and nod, but I still drip sad.
A sister-friend walks in the door. She’s been called in to be a life vest. My heart feels lighter at the sight of her. She offers no trite answers or neatly packaged remedies to help me shake off the sad. She’s comfortable with wet because she’s been swimming in these seas with me for months. While she sits and hears and prays, she is unaware that she pats me dry. I pay the bill and we walk out the door. As I drive home I realize that my seat is no longer damp from despair’s drowning, but from the healing waters of a friend. Once again, I find myself baptized by a sister’s presence. I am stilled and silenced knowing that this has been a holy soaking.