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The lovely little five year old who lives with me – the one named for Apollo and Artemis and who seems to possess the bravery of the former and the loyalty of the latter – we took a short walk yesterday at dusk.

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She had been for the entire day at my side, happy at the hearth but in not a small amount of pain. The day previous she had fallen at school, and her face was a swollen canvas of blues. My delicate daughter, “damaged,” as she described it. The teacher said she didn’t cry. So I cried for her, and kept her a hand’s reach away all the next day.

This is the first wounded child in our family of three children: my son is fastidious and careful, and has barely earned a scrape in his six years.  It is almost as if he possesses such disdain for hurt that he scares it away. The baby…. well, she sits upon the throne of mother’s obsessive watchfulness, as most babies do; I suppose she’ll begin her descent to playful danger soon. I will miss the days of being guard and handmaiden to her tiny perfect body.

It is the middle child who has always courted risk: she is athletic, flexible, treats pain as a stranger and adventure as her twin. I always thought when the injury came it would be a broken bone from hanging upside down on playground swings, or skin stripped from a slide across the ballet studio floors. But no. A slipped foot on iced stairs, and now she knows the mortal hesitation pain irretrievably introduces to the body and brain. First injury: it is a lesson and a loss. I wish I could for her unlearn the former and give back whatever the latter took away.

Instead I kept her home and close. In the dusky light we wandered across the bridge leading to our favorite park. We felt the cold advance quickly, though that didn’t stop her from pausing, pointing to a rounded ice-imprinted shoe print and exclaiming, “Look, Mama, a snowflake.”

The sunset was more subtle than some have lately been. We stared and stared at every changing particle of light, holding hands all the while.

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