I’m seeing my protégé on Saturday, two months to the day since I last saw her.
That’s an eternity for kids but especially when the kid has been through some stuff, when she has seen mentors come and go for others. Even though I keep in touch with postcards and Facebook, there’s always the niggling feeling that this is it. It’s over. She wasn’t worth sticking around for. She wasn’t wanted or loved, relationships don’t last and people will abandon you at any given moment.
The last time I was out of town for this long, I surprised her. Her mom told her to wake up early and be ready to babysit when, in reality, I was en route to pick her up for a day together. When I walked through her front door, the look of shock on her face took my breath away. Think of your most exaggerated jaw-dropped, bug-eyed face and that was her but she wasn’t faking. She was thunderstruck; the textbook definition of blown away.
In an instant she sprang off the couch, bolted across the room and leapt into my arms. She wrapped her legs around my waist and arms around my neck and squeezed.
Squeezed like a tsunami was raging through Queens and if she let go of me, it’d be all she wrote.
I squeezed back knowing I’m not letting go.
We’ll ride this storm together, girl, and I’ll be your tree.