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One, two, three, four candles stood propped in the sugary frosting of a store-bought cake, for a tender life so young, barely new, still just beginning…

at a party celebrating the day when the baby girl appeared, the day beginning all things pretty and pink, holding the promise of feminine sweetness, girlish giggles, sunshine and rainbows.

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But the bundle of innocence was born into a family whose future rests precariously on two individuals, fully grown in body, yet fully reckless in their ways… having yet to realize the value of an eternal soul, the worth of their babies’ minds and hearts awaiting the divine imprints of parents’ selfless love.

Beneath blond curls she wore a shiny fabric confection, draped and tucked, pink and purple and shiny with golden trim—the birthday girl had turned fairy princess for a day.

I spied her sweet face looking my way. She rewarded my smile with a one of her own.

This little one who rarely says more than two words, allowed me to hug her, then tentatively held out her hand. A plastic jeweled ring encircled her finger, extended for me to ooh and aah. More smiles. Another hug.

At the park aunts and uncles and cousins and grandmas sat under shade in camp chairs, on benches beside picnic tables at the edge of a grassy expanse.

Another four-year-old wore a summery dress with little toes peeking from strappy sandals. She had been dropped off for the birthday party of her fairy friend. Looking around, looking lost, she saw me—then smiled, ran over and threw her arms around my neck. I had already stooped to her level to receive her embrace. She answered my questions with smiles and nods, before stepping back to the table.

She too is a casualty of irresponsible parenting, passed continually from homes and relatives while the grown-ups vacillate between loving pleasure and accepting responsibility.

But on this day at least, it was fun to be a girl, on the playground, surrounded by presents and smiles and sweets, amid the pretense of normalcy… forgetting in the blur of activity that all is not as it appears…

Too much remains broken in the homes where angry voices keep parents at odds, holding the one weaker to substitute remedies, driving that same one to breaking the law, running from the law, living behind bars, missing the markers of her babies’ growing up years, caught in a vicious cycle of the consequences and heartache she tries desperately to escape.

In the few years of their short lives so far, the two girls cannot be fully aware of how much they already have in common—orphaned daughters, timid friends, lost souls, together on this superficially happy day of days…

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when little girl wishes blow across candles, to float on balloons, and rise into space, becoming invisible.

Isn’t there still a place where parents ought to be, pressed by obligation to nurture their children produced by passion, setting youthful immaturity aside to guide the little ones following close behind? Isn’t there a time when we can expect grown-ups to start growing up?

But for these two little girls (and only God knows how many more), happiness appears and disappears, transient delight of whipped cream and powdered sugar frosting swirls, minutes away from melting under the summer sun.

After the crowd leaves, as dusk settles, paper and plastic and rancid cans are tossed away, the car packed up with new toys and discarded shoes and worn out kids and leftover beer. The families return home, fractured by consequences of their own choosing, to frustrations of their own making.

Sleepy blond curls lie on the pillow where lost little girls cling to princess dreams, with mommies close by and daddies laughing in clouds of daughters’ joy…

In the morning rose petal cheeks need washing, from crusted tears dried in the night. Silent pain revealed in lips that rarely speak, in glazed eyes clinging to make-believe dreams where mommy’s arms wrap securely around her… forever around her.

The change of circumstances dependent on the very ones who created them.

Leaving the rest of us to pray.

As one, two, three, four and five more years slip by,

birthday-50808_640these two with moldable hearts, minds, souls, and character miss opportunities for God-like imprints from parents who could—should—point their children to Him.

The wonder, the miracle of a tiny slippery human form emerging from a mother’s sacred chasm is lost with each pill, with each larger dose of powder. And the mother-daughter bond is left to dissipate, the younger becoming increasingly hardened by neglect, by lack of love from those who should love her most…

and any receptivity to goodness will be dried up, wasting away from lack of mother’s and father’s care.

Because of delinquent parents, the two girls who scooped up birthday cake at age four, will most likely wander constantly in residual wounded-ness, drinking together by age fourteen, becoming addicts and indifferent mommies themselves…

Leaving me to wonder how many more candles will be blown out, and how many more fairy princess birthdays will take place before mommies and daddies stop seeking artificial stimulants…

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to discover the tangible pleasure of loving babies so quickly grown, knee-high today, shoulder to shoulder tomorrow, before opportunity fades?

When mommies and daddies love drugs more than daughters, four-year-olds are left to finding happiness only in their dreams.

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