She’ll come down when she’s ready.
My mother used to say when you reach the hovering age, it’s important to take your time. Don’t feel as though you need to keep yourself on the ground if your body wants to do something else.
I hit the hovering age at thirteen. The first time I slammed the door in my father’s face, I looked down, and I was three inches off the ground. Always felt useless to me. Not to be able to fly--just hover. So I stopped right away. I didn’t have any interest in being an impractical person. My first boyfriend told me it was a superpower. Some superpower. Outside a haunted house, what good is it? I unslammed my bedroom door that day and my father looked right at me--floating there.
I suppose you think you’re special now, huh?
I didn’t think that.
I didn’t think that at all.
My mother reached the hovering age later than me, but that was a time of suppression. She was promised off to a man she didn’t love, and two minutes before she was set to walk down the aisle, up she went. Only two inches, but it was enough to convince her fiance that she was possessed by a demon, and he took off for parts unknown. A month later she met my father, and he seemed like someone who could handle two inches off the ground if it was presented to him, but it never was again. You hover until you stop. Sometimes it’s in your control, and sometimes you wish you could go back up again, but you can’t.
She always wanted to go back up--just to see the world from a slightly higher vantage point. Mom was five foot three, which I knew she didn’t feel was very respectable. In her mind, she was taller. Deep in the recesses of her psyche, she was tall and blonde and looked like the women at the picture show who were rescued by cowboys and sought after by fine gentlemen in period dramas based on books I was supposed to read in school.
When we closed the coffin on her, she was two and a half inches up off the lining and I thought--
She gained half an inch.
That was all.
My confession to you is this--
I didn’t want a daughter, because I knew.
I knew that sons don’t hover and daughters do, and when I met Oh Henry, I told him that anything goes so long as we never have a daughter.
And dammit, didn’t we have a daughter.
I knew this wasn’t a skipping generation kinda skill, but Oh Henry was a man who had his feet on the ground. I thought that meant maybe the hovering would stay at a minimum if not non-existent. Quite the opposite, in fact. She was younger than me and went higher. My little Jessy Bell. Two-years-old and seven inches high. Oh Henry asked if he should tug on her little polka square dress to bring her back down, but I said what my mother said--
She’ll come down when she’s ready.
But my little girl never seemed to want to come down.
Instead she’d float all around the house. She’d float in the tub while I was giving her a bath. She’d float up past her high chair while I was feeding her fried peaches. She’d levitate at the playground sending all the other kids screaming into the nearby woods. Parts unknown. Just like jumpy grooms and people who don’t understand that a little space between your shoes and the ground isn’t the scariest thing in the world.
Life can offer you way bigger scares than that.
Jessy Bell would hover just up past the swing set and will herself back and forth while I tried to convince her that to sit in a swing can be lovely all by itself. Even at two-years-old, she wouldn’t be brought down. I’d hand her apple slices cut in the shapes of Sesame Street characters and as she was chomping on Grover, I gave her my word that she could stay up as long as she wanted no matter what that meant.
Would the news show up and do a feature on her?
Would the local paper print lies about her being radioactive?
Would a network exec promise her a sitcom that would be poorly written and would her mother be played by the woman who played the wacky detective on Clue Me In?
I put her on the seesaw with me and she saw me get choked up, because I could have prevented all this. I could have taken myself down to the burgundy bedroom carpet when I was thirteen and onto the kitchen linoleum and the green green grass outside on the lawn. I could have tap danced my way to the nearest city and worked as a waitress at a steak restaurant where the special was never salmon and rent an apartment in a building with thin walls and noisy neighbors and never married and never had a daughter and never watched her work her way up faster and higher than I ever could.
She hit the hovering age and just kept going. Past the age I started and stopped and then further on beyond her grandmother’s beginning and end. She had sixteen daughters of her own and each one of them began hovering earlier and earlier. The youngest one was born hovering causing the doctor to have to find a ladder to pull her down from the ceiling.
By then, I was long gone.
Not dead, but living with Oh Henry in a houseboat on Lake Lionel. Every day, I would wake up and try my best to glide across the water. Some days a splash, some a swim. Nobody ever told me that once you choose a gravitational pull, it’s hard to pull back on the science.
It doesn’t stop me from trying though.
Oh Henry scrambles his toast and toasts his eggs every day hoping he’ll hear the sound of a woman he loves walking on water.
He doesn’t know what that sounds like just yet, but one day, he will.
One day I’ll remember the thing about me I tried hardest to forget.