She was daddy’s little girl. She has never admitted it to me and I doubt she ever will, but it’s an underlying truth in each of her childhood stories. However what she will admit is that out of all her siblings she was the outcast of the bunch. And yet she had exclusive rights to my grandfather’s lap at the winding down of each day. It wasn’t distinct colored eyes or bunching curls that set her apart from the rest. In fact, she was a brown eyed girl with perfectly straight hair. She wasn’t the oldest or the youngest, just somewhere in the mix of six other children. Instead, it was my mother’s innocence that set her apart and gave her that undeniable charm to be just that, daddy’s little girl.
Growing up on a ranch she recalls having everything a little girl could ask for. To her, it consisted of a rag doll and a high hanging swing. Her favorite of the two, the swing, and of course my grandfather had built it for her.
After morning chores, while her sisters stuck around the house, she would wander off to her swing, cutting as many weeds as she could manage to carry along the way. Once she arrived, she would pile them up into a landing pad and begin her sessions of letting go. She would swing and jump off as many times as it took for the pile of weeds lose their fluff. It was then that my mother’s curiosity and imagination would take flight and eventually lay the foundation for the woman she is today. In her youthful innocence, she was learning to be decisive, learning to think for herself, and learning the consequences of her decisions, because she will also admit that there was indeed a time or two when she overshot the landing pad.
Then, at age nine her intact innocence was abruptly tapped into with my grandfather’s unexpected death. Among the many adjustments that her family had to make, moving to town further pierced my mother’s innocence. Up to this point all she had known was country life, there was never anything in her occasional visits to town that had overshadowed her passion for simple life at the ranch and her beloved swing.
At school she began to see what it was like to have more. She saw girls with multi-colored ribbons in their hair, book bags that weren’t homemade, and she even recalls kids with distinct smells of foods she had never had. But even then, she never envied or aspired to have as much or more than her peers. Her innocence, despite being struck, only allowed her to envision what it was like to have more. Without ever experiencing these things, she had already let go of them one by one during the countless leaps she had taken off her swing.
To this day, my mother doesn’t consider it a swing unless it hangs from a tree and is made of rope and a weathered piece of timber. The higher the branch, the better. Our innocence is our source of knowledge and growth. These two contradicting aspects of life work hand in hand, they harmonize. As children, our innocence is whole, but life experiences eventually begin to provide us with knowledge and an opportunity for growth. At some point, we often think we have it all figured out, and proceed through life, looking for knowledge in every place imaginable but often forget to return to our innocence. My mother certainly hasn’t.