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a portrait of the children

 

Christmas coloured clothing. Red, Green, White.

Boys in coloured shirts, girls in hand made dresses.

Two girls, two different stages of life.

The eldest in glasses, Large frames with a tiny yellow glint in the top corner. Reflected light. Her short hair, curled back and fluffed out to frame her face.

The younger girl, striking. Nearly bald except for a thin spread of dark brown hair, almost black in contrast to her pale white complexion.

Thin face and blue eyes, rimmed with purple.

A babe, a tiny babe painted with illness.

The background was dark.

The taller boys at the very back are stifling sneaky expressions. A younger similar boyish face sits slightly lower than the girl in glasses. His expression the definition of happy-go-lucky. Below them is the sickly babe.

The photograph is framed and stacked, hidden away in the basement storage. The stack holds photos of the same style, some with three children, one photograph shows four but most show five. Girls and boys dressed alike, posed and smiling.

The frames with the glint: they hide something. They hide the intensity of the fuzzy haired girl. The fear, the intense fear, that she may loose the sister that she prayed God would send her. Night after night, kneeling by her bedside. Then receiving a new brother with open arms, but hoping for one more, one more to keep her company, to share her secrets. To exchange glances with.

He sent her. She came. Shaking the family to life, adding something curious to the family Christmas photographs.  Catching the eye of the innocent onlooker. Provoking questions.

She did not hug or exchange glances though. She lay limp. Mask strapped to face the girl with glasses helped mum administer special vapor. It kept her alive, everything was to keep the ghostly white face animated, and the tiny lungs, hidden behind a thin frame of ribs, pumping. Air in, air out

The babe was taught to use a toilet, then taught again. She wore diapers to bed for an extra year. She moved slowly and prefers to shuffle around, carpet moving under bulky diaper. Each step took many breaths. But soon dark hair thickened and gathered in ringlets at the base of her neck. Mum strapped ankle high boots to feet with curled toes and a stranger helped us walk her around the living room.

The fluffy haired girl grew out her hair and replaced glasses with tiny slippery lenses. She helped walk sister in boots around the carpeted floor and made her a necklace of colourful plastic beads.

Slow and steady, she grew out of those plastic beads. Steps turned to waddle, waddle to walk, walking to jumping. Now she run and leaps, beading and dancing in a living room cluttered with boxes.

Sister stands equal height, and joins her sister in playful dance. Occasionally their eyes meet, but it is different for the dark haired girl, hair now lightened to a soft brown, even blond and wispsy in some pieces that frame her face. The dark haired girl is dancing to be free, dancing because she has felt retrained all day, this is her chance to float freely. The older girl, blonde hair pulled back dances so that her sister is not alone. Her sister is her gift, the prayer that was answer and so much more. They leap over boxes and twirl down the hall spinning and spinning until they disappear.

 

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