I saw her sitting on the bench with her daughter. They were far enough away that I couldn’t see the distinguishing characteristics of their faces, but close enough that I could tell they were together. And why they were there. The language their bodies spoke was familiar, yet tense. Their heads so close together they could’ve bumped as they nodded, but didn’t.
When they finally joined us, the daughter, who was perhaps 20, introduced herself, and then her mother. Her support. They sat down together on the blanket beside us, and the mother watched as her daughter filled out the release form. And then the poster board.
I looked away.
I don’t know what she wrote on her poster, but her mother did. She nodded encouragement as her daughter paused, the two taking deep breaths in sync. Humidity clung to us as she wrote, cicadas shrieking from the treetops. And then I heard the click of the lid as she closed the pen. The rustle of leaves as she stood.
I remained on the blanket with the mother as her daughter walked away to be photographed by Grace Brown.
We looked back down at the same time. I watched her hands pressing back and forth across the tops of her thighs. Clutching and unclutching the blanket. We looked up again, and witnessed her daughter stand up to the words once used against her.
And just like that it was over.
The mother stood to her feet as her daughter returned. They said their good-byes and walked away, the daughter leaning into her mother’s arms.
And I felt it.
The thin shoulders of my daughters. Their heads against my ribcage. The light smell of lavender shampoo as our heads met together in that safe place without words. The safe place I prayed we’d never have to dig through to find that kind of strength. Though if we needed to, I prayed we could.
Just like they did.
©2012 CEK. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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Thank you to the brave men and women who share their hearts and experiences on Project Unbreakable. And to the friends and parents who come out to support those they love. And to Grace Brown, who passionately (and tirelessly) captures their truths, and shares them here: Project Unbreakable.