As I slowed my car to a stop for the red light, I noticed the car next to me. The older sedan had noticeable dents and rust. The rear bumper wore several sticker trophies of various bands and concerts. The back seat was piled high on the driver side with laundry baskets full of dirty clothes. Crumpled linens, wrinkled t-shirts, and lonely socks hanging on for dear life to the basket, risking certain death of hitting the wet, rainy ground as the breeze from the open window flapped them back and forth. On the other side of the piles of dirty clothes sat a little girl, probably around three years old. A little silent girl.
She had a tiny face with mousy brown hair that was pulled back into a messy braid. Her gentle features were so dainty and yet that wasn't what struck me. It was her forlorn demeanor. Her silent, withdrawn demeanor. As she stared blankly out the window, watching the rain hit the window, I noted her eyes that seemed to stare past the window, beyond the intersection and into another world. A world in her own mind. Maybe an escape from something else. Her mouth was drawn into a tight, tiny frown that gave away her secret.
I could read her like a book. She was not a happy girl. In the few, lonely minutes that I sat next to her car at the red light, I had her figured out. I watched her in awe, waiting for her to make a facial expression, to laugh at the giant clown sign that hung over the ice cream store on the other side of my car, in which direction she was staring.
I waited for her to say something to her mother that was looking blankly ahead, waiting for the light to change.
I waited and waited until finally she looked at me and we made eye contact. I gave her a sympathetic, kind smile. And she returned with Nothing. Not a smirk, a giggle or raise of an eyebrow. Just the continual frown that made her little face look longer that it should be for a child. As she broke our uncomfortable glance and then looked down at her lap, I thought of my own children.
In the amount of time that it takes for a light to change, this little girl mesmerized my soul and captivated my every thought. I wondered what she was thinking. Feeling.
I created scenarios in my mind about what could have possibly happened to make such an innocent child sit and stare so blankly on a silent ride in the car. I thought of the conversations that may have transpired and led to her silence in the back seat.
I compared her to my own children in my thoughts, about how a car ride is a constant conversation and question upon question is delivered. I thought about how my own five year old daughter, just a few years older than this silent girl, would have laughed, giggled and sang in the car, marveling at the rainy day, how the clown's face delivered a silly grin and how the rain sang as it hit the car window. I wondered how they could be so different. How could this little silent girl have such a spirit of a crushed soul? The loneliest being I ever never met.
As the light changed and they drove away, I felt my heart shrink. I wished I could help her. Understand her. Talk to her. Console her.
More from parenting