The playground fairy
I’m in El Paso to get my mom and take her back to Dallas with me. Several times since my arrival she has asked me what my name is, a sure sign that the dementia is progressing. That she sometimes does not recognize me boggles my mind. I am made of her blood and bone, yet there are moments when she looks in my face and sees a stranger. I hope that she sees me as a kind stranger, someone who does not wish her harm. For that reason, every time she asks me that, I try to smile, to not look shocked or upset that her mind has failed to recognize her firstborn.
Yet some things for her are reflexes — these things she does not forget, no matter what.
On Friday evening, for exercise, we walked to the elementary school that is down the block from her house. The playground has a small track where we walk, and as we made our way toward it, my mother eyed the occasional mound lying on benches and on the ground near the slides: blue, pink, brown, red, denim — all the forgotten coats, jackets and sweaters the kids leave in their rush back to class after recess and lunch.
For as long as I can remember — maybe ten years or more — my mother has made the rounds of the playground on her walks, collecting these forgotten items and placing them where the children are sure to find them when they return to school. Friday was no exception. While I watched, she carefully picked up each jacket and coat, dusted them off and took them to the chain link fence around the basketball court. There she pushed the soft arms of each coat through the links, tying them together on the other side in a bow, so that when she was finished there were six jackets hugging the fence in wait for their little owners.
What do the kids imagine when they arrive back at school to find their forgotten clothing hung neatly on a fence? I hope they stare in wonder, letting their imagination take flight as children are wont to do, images of a playground fairy rescuing their coats from the dirt and gravel in their absence, placing them where they are sure to see and retrieve them to wear another day.