Heart-Shaped Island

(Image courtesy Geoff LMV)

I put my just-turned-six-year-old in the bath and went to make dinner. Twenty minutes later I went back to say hello. She, still able to stretch without bending her knees or touching the sides, lay straight and still with eyes closed, hair fanned out like seaweed, and face jutting above the water like a heart-shaped island.

She opened her eyes and asked, “Is this real or am I dreaming?”

I know that feeling–submerged and disconnected, an utter bodiless encapsulation, the sensation of being enveloped in a pocket of liquid warmth, how it fills your ears and snuffs every sound except that of your own lungs breathing in, out. I sat on the footstool at the side of the tub and said, “How do we know?”

Her body hung motionless under the water, arms pale and inert, only her eyes and lips moving: “If it’s real to you then it might be real to me too.”

Her words spilled into me and surged up behind my eyes. I took one finger, dipped it in to the water, and touched her forehead.

She said, “Or maybe we’re dreaming each other.” She closed her eyes and added, “It’s a very good dream.”

Later, I helped her slippery body from the water and wrapped her with a towel. She dropped heavily into my lap and I held tight, feeling her warmth seep into my lap, flow into my arms, and fill my chest. When I close my eyes, I can still feel it.

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About girl in the hat

aka Anna Fonté, writer of novels, short stories, personal essays, and bits about the neighborhood crows. The things I write want you to look at them.

39 comments

  1. I am somewhat afraid of water because I do not know how to swim.

  2. kathleen

    Thank you Anna for sharing that moment so beautifully.

  3. Beautiful. And I love the image of the heart shaped island.

  4. Goosebumps.
    What is more beautiful than these moments?

  5. Dana

    I love what they bring into our lives. Thank you so much!

  6. Elma

    She is beautiful like a heart and that’s why we see at first glance! I guess it must be very beautiful because children have different perceptions more pure than us adults! I love this time of life!

  7. Mothers can experience so many more emotions than fathers. It is not the depth of a father’s feelings but rather the opportunities. Possibly my observation is off-center because I only have sons. Then again there were the camping trips, the fishing adventures, the discovery of what a tool is capable of, the touching of an arrowhead and imagining the era it came from. Well – - – I withdraw my original statement. Thanks for making me think about it.

  8. i so love this. you are lucky, and you sound like a great mom!!! dreams are great.

  9. especially when they are real…

  10. If I remember right, there’s a line somewhere in The Four Agreements (or is it Mastery of Love?) about love = inviting others to share in the dream that is our life.

  11. Darling little softie. This is some beautiful writing, Anna.

  12. Beautiful, like I was right there with you. Then at the finish I flashed on times when my daughter was very young, remembering those times of holding her and hearing her say these sorts of things. She boggled my mind. Isn’t it wonderful to be boggled?

  13. So much beauty, AF. I love the way you told this story. I love the story itself, and I love how much you respect your daughter’s need to work out her reality. Lovely, lovely, lovely.

  14. Oh, moments to hold and cherish!

  15. ‘Or maybe we’re dreaming each other.’ Such an adult and intuitive thing to say – I thought at first you had said it! I know that feeling too, floating in a pool, feeling the water surround and lift muscle and limbs.

    Only a child could process so accurately these feelings of thougtfulness and wonder.

  16. beautifully drawn, made me pause and almost cry.

  17. Wow, Anna. Just a gorgeous moment. Thank you for sharing it.

  18. Love this. Not just that moment of dream wondering, but that warmth and weight of a child in your lap. You described that perfectly, and inside I was thinking: hang on tight. My son’s too big for the lap and I miss that feeling of being grounded and needed in such a physical way. To be a lap that comforts and creates a safe world to dream in.

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