The girl

When our adult son returned home to live with us during the pandemic, he brought his partner with him.  Brittany bounces up and down to indicate her excitement about a meal being prepped, a package being delivered, or the plan for an evening of popcorn and a movie. Her enthusiasm for life is a spot of sun and warmth during the cloudy days of January. Though she is a mature woman in many ways, I like to call her the girl for the bubbly energy she brings to our home. She doesn’t object.

Disclaimer: don’t get caught up in semantics and worry that I’m being dismissive of her. I use the term as a playwright might begin her stage directions: The girl walks across the stage as if headed somewhere. Briskly. The camera follows. She turns and notices the light. A strong face. She is a woman of 19 or 26 or 32 years old. Vital in her wide stride step. Curious about everything, everybody. Sometimes sunglasses blot out her eyes. Then she could be 16 to 34. People turn when she walks by, but not because of her flawlessness. She seems accessible, even vulnerable. We suspect an underlying strength. But maybe that’s wishful thinking. The flatness of her speech renders symbolic possibility. Her significance yet to be determined by the plot. She has a role in the resistance. She represents the land, enduring despite threats to tear it apart. But I digress.

The girl is not a stock character but can be any age in a way a boy cannot. Not an emblem of naivete. Not unaware but holding back while she takes it all in, the wallpaper and nappy carpet, while the boys stand shifting their weight from foot to foot, uncertain and balancing the interim between full and empty

The girl softens the rough edges of the men who live with us, the father and son, goal-oriented and driven with an extra dose of energy.  They are precise in measuring ingredients, in their clothing and in their choice of words. A singlemindedness could describe them. Must be the Italian blood, because my people tend to settle for approximations; close enough.  They respond to requests for assistance but not always when the assistance is needed.  When I ask for help (anything electrical, a steadier hand, more muscle) I’ll wait until they’re ready. But the girl smiles, looks them directly in the eye, and explains why now is the best time for the task. It works.

I study the grace the girl demonstrates with her bold move back. She’s agreed to live with her partner’s parents, to help develop and contribute to a fledgling intentional community She’s made adjustments to the frozen tundra of the upper Midwest. Adds layers of clothes.  Makes snow angels.