The Slow-Cooked Sentence

While at the park

Rachael Conlin Levy

The sisters ran first for the swings and stayed there longest. Trailing them was a younger girl and behind her their mother, who wore a dark coat and a hijab the color of water under a somber sky. The scarf was loose and slipped back on her head, exposing light brown hair and pale, fair face. She pulled it tight. Her daughters were darker, their black hair spread like the wings of crows as they pointed their toes at the clouds and flew feet first into the sky, then fell backward to the earth.

“Next year you will be 8. Next year I will be 10. Unfortunately, I will have to wear a scarf but I can still swing,” the oldest said.

What resided inside her words? Did resignation take off its dull, heavy shoes at the door? Did anticipation yank off its hat and toss it on a chair? I was tempted to draw connections between her and Wendy who jumped on the wind’s back and flew away with Peter Pan, for wasn’t she also like Wendy in that she eagerly awaited the time when she’d shrug off childish ways and wrap what is womanly and modest around her? Instead I let the girls fly through sky and swing back to the earth, to swing and nothing more.

“I am going higher,” the middle replied. “I am the highest.”

“It’s not okay to compare. You should just swing. Look what we can do without anyone pushing us. We are swinging so high and nobody pushed us. Pushing is for babies. I’m going higher. I think I’m going higher than you, no offense. Are you offended?” the oldest asked.

“No, no offense taken. I am going higher too.” the middle replied.

The politeness, the articulateness astounded me, suspended me for a slip of a second at the tip of the swing’s arc. I heard the echo of the mother in their conversation and wondered if she was more suited to mothering than I, so I watched her adjust the hijab and speak to her daughters in a voice patient as honey poured from a jar. Maybe the framework of religion guides the parenting, which guides the child, who learns that to offend the individual is to offend God. Thoughts dangled in the air before they swung away from me.

The youngest sister ran up and hopped about, wanting a turn on the swings.

“We could bounce on the clouds,” the oldest said.

“We could eat the clouds. That would be so much fun,” the middle said.

“You know, clouds are not what they seem to be,” the oldest replied.

The swings slowed to a stop and the sisters relinquished them.

“If you get scared on the swing be positive. If you’re positive it helps. Being negative makes you more scared when you swing,” the oldest instructed the youngest before heading to the slide.

Ten minutes later, they left. This time the two younger sisters raced ahead while the oldest held her mother’s hand. Again the scarf slipped, but this time it was ignored. Again, I was tempted to make the small significant, to lend meaning where there was, maybe, none. Instead, I let them hold hands and walk away.

2 responses to “While at the park”

  1. Eating clouds, intriguing, maybe like marshmallows? I think she’s right about the being positive too. Thought provoking observations.

  2. kyndale says:

    I wonder what would happen if the tables were turned and their mom was watching your kids. I think she would be just as intrigued.

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