Author : Ivy Tyson
Sunlight sifts through fluttering reds and yellows, bounces off of well-worn bark and old crinkled stems to gently fall, scattered and warm, on the soft brown ground. A light breeze rustles the branches of the huge old oak tree, providing nature’s most impressive symphony as an accompaniment to the great, huge games of a five-year-old girl and her doll.
The little girl sits cross-legged, content in the company of the tree and her own imagination. She sings quietly to the cloth-and-paint doll in her arms, admiring its beauty and gladly ignoring its many scrapes and fading lines in favor of the warmth of its steady companionship. There is a single bright red leaf tucked prettily into her brown hair, placed there in her grand imaginings by a handsome prince, a token of his favor.
The girl’s mother stands in the kitchen of the house, watching her daughter play in the increasingly cool fall afternoon. Not for the first time, she is struck by the child’s utter loveliness, and wonders if every parent feels this way. She does not know. She knows no other parents that she can ask. The girl has her father’s large brown eyes (they must be her father’s, for her mother’s are a tired blue) and an inquisitive, gracious disposition that marks her as exceptional, even at this early age.
Her daughter has everything a child could wish for, except for what is perhaps the most important thing of all: companionship. The one thing the mother cannot give her child is a friend of skin and blood and emotion, not just of paint and cloth. She sometimes wonders when the little girl will ask, when she will discover that she is uniquely small and childish in this world of cold, jaded big people who think in equally cold and jaded ways.
The little girl is unaware of any differences between herself and her parent, whether in size or in perspective, and the mother mourns this.
She mourns many things, but perhaps this unknown loneliness of her child most of all. A crushing weight settles on her shoulders whenever she allows herself to think of the enormity of this one little girl, and of the cruelty and the kindness of the world.
So she does not think of it. Instead, she turns on the stove to begin their evening meal and allows her daughter a few more precious minutes to rule her play world with grace and power. When next she looks outside, though, and sees the girl framed by the sun and the rioting colors of a dying autumn, she does not see her daughter.
Instead she sees the only child on the planet, the last daughter of the human race. She sees the heiress of all man’s greatest achievements, as well as his most crippling defeats. This girl alone, because the other scheduled pregnancy, the boy meant to be this little one’s mate in all ways, has not survived. Her imagined handsome prince will never come.
In that moment, she realizes that she and her daughter are utterly unique amidst a sterile dying planet: the only child of the human race, and the only mother.
And for the first time since giving birth, she wishes that this overwhelming fate had been given to some other potential mother on the list, instead of her.
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