Shabbat afternoon. Schools in Los Angeles closed yesterday.
It’s been raining since early morning. My daughter is visiting. She has her feet up on the long end of the couch. My husband sits upright in the middle section, and I’m melded into my corner. The grandchildren play quietly.
My daughter is saying she doesn’t know how she’ll juggle homeschooling the kids and working when five-year-old Shaina tugs at her skirt. “Mommy, I wanna go outside.” My daughter tells her, “You can’t go out in the rain.”
Shaina skids across the hardwood floor in her white tights launches herself onto the pillow next to me. I pull her close for a cuddle. “When it stops raining, I’ll take you outside.”
But it doesn’t stop raining.
My husband says, “You think “shelter in place” will last more than a week or two?” My daughter just moved into her own apartment, a milestone in her long, slow climb out of a darkness none of us had seen coming. She’s so young. A single mother. It was supposed to get easier for her. And for us.
I say, “I wonder if right now, the whole world is filling in the same blank—we were supposed to…”
A slash of shame. Our friend is hospitalized, on a ventilator. People are losing their jobs. And I’m worrying about managing a bunch of healthy children?
Shaina drags a blanket across the living room floor, comes much too close to her brother’s LEGO airplane, and to the doll shoes her sister is lining up against the piano. Someone shrills “Maa…” Someone chases someone.
My daughter whisper-shouts, “Shh” because the two year old is napping upstairs. I see the familiar tightness in her face. I can’t lift all the weight off her shoulders. But I can do something. Now. Something small.
I get myself out of the couch. “Come Shainale, I’ll take you outside.”
Shaina’s rain boots are pink with rows of colorful owls. She slips them on easily and stands perfectly still while I zip her sweatshirt and pull up her hood. I don’t have rain boots. My leather Naot will have to do. I pull up my own hood and we head out.
The city has a just-showered freshness. The rain is still falling, soft and steady, but the sky is a bright white like the sun is waiting for its cue behind a sheet.
Shaina is doing her happy hop-walk at my side. We pass a woman whose shaggy dog is on a long leash. Shaina shrinks against me, but only for a second. Then she straightens and giggles as the dog sniffs at the ground near her feet. The first puddle is at the end of our neighbor’s driveway. I make my way around it. Shaina stays at my side.
I say, “You can go into the puddle if you want to.” She backs up a few feet and clumps her rain boots into a run. She jumps, lands short, and
ends up at the edge of the puddle. She jumps again. The splash is less dramatic than I’d expected, but she’s in the water, and her arms are high in a dance.
A virus is rattling the foundation of the earth, and we’re scrambling to find our footing, but there must still be time for a little girl and the smallness of her need. We journey up and down the quiet streets, Shaina and I, hand in hand. When we find puddles—many are at the uneven bits of sidewalk where living roots push through the concrete — Shaina runs, jumps, misses, jumps again, sloshes, and wave at me.
The whole world is clamoring. Even leaders of nations are acknowledging a Divine power. God is King and we are His servants, and there are so many big things to ask for. Is there room for my “everyday-ish” worry in all of this?
God is also Father. We are children. All of us, now, small.
For a Father no voice is too slight.
I stand in the rain and whisper my prayer. “God. Please. I’m asking for my child—who’s a grown-up but still my child. Help us help her. A father hears.
I ask Shaina if she’s ready to go back inside.
“Not yet.”
The rain doesn’t let up. Shaina’s hood slips. Her ponytail is scraggly, but her face shines. In between puddles, she holds my hand. We can’t know that this will be the last time, in many weeks, that I’ll be allowed to hold her hand.