I bundle up Miss M. in heavy clothes for our walk to the school bus stop. Miss D. had an early student council meeting, so it’s just us chickens.
As we walk the two short blocks to the bus stop, her mittened hand in mine, I start to feel thick in the throat. Every step we take forward, I tuck my feelings into my white puffy parka, away from harm.
But there is. There is harm here.
I have begged Awesome Stepkid Ro to walk the girls to the bus stop in the morning for several months. He’s been…well…awesome. I’m so grateful. But some mornings he can’t, and then I have to walk The Road.
It helps to have a small, mittened hand in mine as we walk.
I have heavy gloves on, too. I have Raynauds Syndrome–a little genetic gift from Mama. My hands and feet are always stone-cold. Mama assures me that this disease is no big deal. No harm, no foul. “Cold hands, warm heart,” Mama says.
The ladies at the bus stop must have flames shooting out of their palms, because there’s ice in their collective veins. I scan the crowd, looking for the one woman who is nice to me. Not there. Shit.
Miss M. and I stand at the corner, look backandforthandbackandforth, and determine that it’s okay to cross. My hand tightens around hers.
It’s a circus over there–a riot of backpacks and binders, braided hair and boys who shuffle feet, mesmerized by dirt.
M. immediately rushes to greet the two dogs in residence; if M. had a tail, hers would wag with the same strident motion.
I’d rather hang out with the dogs. I’ll take tails over tight, Rubber Band smiles–the ones they give before turning around, a wall of winter-coated backs.
The ladies chat and laugh with their lattes in hand, and I wander over to the dogs. I’m allergic to dogs, but I’m better off with them. Dogs are good judges of character…right?
I fondle buttery puppy ears and kiss my daughter twice on each cheek before she gets on the bus, for good measure.
I walk home alone, my hand already missing the little mittened one.
I am okay.
I am different.
I don’t fit. The human equivalent of last year’s dress.
But what’s the fun in fitting, anyways?