By last skate, I mean that we missed the last day of the season at the outdoor rink at Larz Anderson Park.
On Sunday night, the last skating day, the one we missed, I sat downstairs in the living room, writing comments on report drafts. Around 10 o’clock, I heard the sound of weeping. A child. I went upstairs and located Grace, who had woken up. She cried softly, with a kind of tinkling music that probes your thoracic cavity with its fingertips.
“What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” I murmured.
She didn’t move or thrash. With her lips a little mashed by the pillow she said, “I just feel sad. I don’t know.”
“Sad about something?” I asked.
“Just sad.” She paused; she wept. I could see the sparkle of her opened eyes even though the room was dark, because the light was on in the hallway and her wet corneas caught it. “We missed the last skating day today.”
“I know. I’ve been thinking about that. We should have made ourselves go.”
Grace sighed. “It’s that, but it’s not just that.”
I know that, too. Sometimes a person just feels sad, and a concrete event amplifies the sadness, but it doesn’t entirely explain it.
We adults often believe that we own those deep emotional cavities that inexplicably open up inside a person from time and time. While they last and remain open, nothing will fill them. One thing that being a parent has taught me is that children experience the unfillable eternity, too. Lydia, at six, sobbing, retorted when I asked her what was wrong: “If I knew why I was crying, I wouldn’t be crying!” Eli, at ten, soberly informed me: “Mom, if you think that kids are carefree, you don’t know.”
What is the comfort when there is nothing to say? On Sunday night, the last skating day, I climbed into bed with Grace; I was tired anyway. She flung her arm over me. We slept together for an hour, animal to animal. Eventually I got up, looked again at her, and shuffled to my own bed.
Photograph of the rink at Larz Anderson taken by Grace Guterman at 4:30pm on February 18, 2010, ten days before the last skating day.