• Carmen Rempel

When your hands were little

Updated: Apr 11

We were going over her old report cards together, snuggled up on the couch, tea waiting to offer comfort sitting wisely beside us. She had never seen them before, and they were from the time well before I knew her, so there was discoveries to be had for both of us. We read about her teacher being proud of her for this and that. I praised her for being called a friendly and helpful kid in kindergarten. I didn't read that part that said she was well below grade level. I skipped over the extra note written by the teacher asking the parent to make sure she came to school more often because they couldn't assess her properly because she had missed so much school. I left out the note from the principal asking to meet. Instead I read the bit about how the teacher said she was learning to share well with others. But then she pointed to the box at the top of the page that said "34.5", and asked what it meant.

Sigh.

"That's how many absences you had in between March and June in grade 2." I said.

"Oh."

There was along pause and I watched the wave of understanding roll over her. Then I watched as the wave of painful memories came next. By the time the third wave, the wave of attached emotions, came crashing in, she shoved the papers aside and laid her head in my lap and began to cry quietly.

I took her hand into mine, and we waited out the waves together.

After a while she started playing with my hand, fiddling with my ring, feeling the sandpaper of my dry skin. She held her hand up, stretched out against mine. "Your hands are so small!" She giggled. Her 12 year old hands match her tall lanky body, and are significantly bigger than mine.

They always have been. In our entire relationship her hands have always been bigger than mine.

I brought my other hand up, capturing her one hand between two of mine, and said "They may be small, but they are capable of taking care of you."

Her smile turned sad. "I know." she said.


As an adoptive mom of an older kid I have this guilt companion with me all the time. I'm her mom. Its my job to care for and protect my kid. And she had been going through hell without me. I know its irrational, I know its misplaced, but in my heart I carry a deep regret that I didn't get to her sooner. This feeling is what inspired the following poem. There is probably some therapist somewhere who would love to name this feeling I experience, but I haven't met them yet. So this is what I have instead.

If you want to take a peek into the deepest parts of my heart; here you go.

Please handle with care.


When your hands were little


I'm sorry I wasn't there

I'm sorry that you were alone

I'm sorry I couldn't be there when your hands were little.

Littler than mine.


I'm sorry I didn't know you then.

I'm sorry that you were scared

I'm sorry I couldn't hold you when your hands were little

Littler than mine.


I'm sorry I wasn't there to protect you

I'm sorry that you were hurt

I'm sorry I couldn't soothe you when your hands were little

Littler than mine


I'm sorry I wasn't there to feed you

I'm sorry that you were hungry

I'm sorry I couldn't pack your lunch when your hands were little

Littler than mine


I'm sorry that I missed so much

I'm sorry that you had a whole life before me

I'm sorry I couldn't get to you sooner, while your hands were still little

Littler than mine.



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