by Rosie Pound
Maisie wonders how she got to be right here, right now. In her flower shop, gardening gloves on her hands, knees on the hard floor, staring up into her seven-year-old daughters big brown questioning eyes. She can’t have heard correctly but –
“Jemma says so. We’re all gonna die.” Anarchy’s little brows furrow in determination under her wispy blond bangs. When she wants to know something, she doesn’t let up.
Anarchy had been dropped off by the bus only a few minutes ago, her backpack still on her back and puffball hat on her head. Pursing her lips, Maisie brushes her hands together a couple of times knocking the loose dirt off her gloves before sliding them off and placing them beside her. “So,” she says, fingers starting to tremble, “what did she say?”
“Jemma says we’re going to fall into the ocean in an earthquake – her brother says so, and he says we can’t live in the ocean, so we’ll die.” She doesn’t look very worried, only curious. Hungry, even, for knowledge. Death doesn’t scare her yet.
For Maisie, it’s a different story. Thinking about the future of the planet, the future of her children, well, that’s where most of her anxiety comes from. Just yesterday, in the midst of Maisie’s rant about plastic disposable straws (a hill she’d die on), her colleague had asked, “Why in the world would you decide to have kids when you have such a bleak view on the world?” Followed by, “I love your kids, don’t get me wrong!”
“I fell in love,” was the simple answer she gave, “I fell in love, and we decided together we had the skills to give them a future. The skills for them to survive, I think.” She’d looked to her colleague hoping she’d understand. But the thoughts always nag in the back of her mind, who am I to think I can prepare them for a world on the brink of disaster? She never intended to have kids. And her anxiety has gotten worse since having them. But she’s decided they have to be worth it. Perhaps her kids will change the world.
Now, Maisie lets the earthy smell of her shop ground her. She breaths in the fresh dirt scent and tries to exhale the growing dread in the pit of her stomach. My kid thinks she’s going to die.
“Momma,” Anarchy starts –sensing a shift in her mother’s posture, “is the earthquake like the storms for you?” Ever since Anarchy discovered her mother’s fear, whenever there’s a thunderstorm, she’s the first to run to her mother’s side and howl at the thunder to be quiet.
Maisie’s lip twitches up in amusement. “A little bit,” she replies, “thunder scares me, but that earthquake scares me even more.”
“Come here.” Maisie beckons Anarchy closer to the little garden plot. “Do you want to help me plant some seeds?” Anarchy nods, she’s been in the flower shop many times to play or help her mother with the plants. She finally takes off her backpack and sheds her outerwear layer. For a little while they work in silence, Maisie’s small hands and Anarchy’s even tinier ones dig little holes in the soil, burying seed after seed after seed. The feel of the earth between Maisie’s fingers always calms her down, lets her think better.
The shop has been quiet today, no customers at all in the last hour or so, and none since Anarchy showed up. The work they’re doing right now is mostly for hobby. Maisie has loved the earth for far longer than she’s owned the flower shop. She could spend hours doing this one simple task. Fingers sifting through the dirt, nurturing the stuff of life. But it’s not long before Anarchy’s impatience gets the better of her and she asks about the earthquake again, “Momma, is it going to happen?”
Maisie watches her daughter carefully patting dirt over another seed – so unafraid, so worry free. So, she says the hard thing, “Yeah honey, it could happen. It could happen and that scares me.”
“I don’t think I want to die.” Anarchy says frowning down at her dirty hands. “How do we stop it?”
Another hard thing, Maisie’s lips tremble a little as she says, “We can’t.”
Anarchy’s big brown eyes turn up to meet her mother’s matching, but watery, eyes. “Momma don’t cry!” She jumps up and wipes her hands on her overalls. “We just need to plant more seeds! You say the seeds make the earth happy!”
What can I even say to that? Maisie wonders, marveling at the natural resilience that children have, especially Anarchy. Every day she wishes to be a little bit more like her daughter. She’s so strong already, and though yes, some of that may come from being a child still, Maisie knows she’s only going to get stronger, smarter, kinder. Just being around Anarchy makes her feel braver and more hopeful. Maisie wipes her face in the crook of her elbow and gives Anarchy a wavering smile. Together they gather some more seeds and fertilizer, and gardening gloves for the both of them.
“Okay, Anarchy, let’s plant some seeds.”
Anarchy grins up at her mom who smiles right back at her, ready to take on the world again, for today, and always for her daughter.