They came in their droves.
In the early morning light we watch as they march across grass, soaked with dew.
Inside, tired eyes try focusing on the procession as it moves towards them swiftly.
A cavalcade of skirts and lipstick, children under feet and Tupperware of every shape and size.
Behind them a sweet, sticky motley waft of perfume floats.
An army of beautiful and strong hands.
In the kitchen, as the sun now makes the darkest corners of the house bright.
Stirring and sorting and cutting and packing with one hand, while the other manages to make its way to the hurt, cushioning the blow. Caressing the broken hearts lying in a bewildered heap around them.
Women in times of grief are completely remarkable to me.
They work quickly; softly. Knowing what needs to be done so their fallen one can focus on breathing in and out…putting one step in front of the other as she tries to remember which way is up and which way is down.
Meals are made, a year’s worth. Cups of tea flow all day. Beds get made and children doused in sunscreen. The world is told to stop for just a moment ..the school bells, the bills and the well wishes..all told to leave her alone, so she can roll up into a ball, all carried out like a moving silent picture, faded so beautifully into the background of her grief, so as not to disrupt her while she does.
I have been lucky enough in my life to be surrounded by such women.
Grandmothers, aunts, cousins, sisters, good friends of my sisters and my own friends, community, neighbors. And of course my mother, so strong.
I see what they are capable of and the strength they often hide, behind pretty smiles and soirees in skirts that swish.
I have watched as their hands turn from caressing a sick child’s head so lovingly, to the resilient blow of an axe swinging down hard to make fire.
Such a force to be reckoned with when one of their own, needs a soft place to fall. And here I sit, watching it all with complete awe as they do this for my sister now as she sits, mourning her husband in shock.
My own circle of incredible females recently showed me how blissful it is, when you do reach a certain lovely age and finally make lifelong connections that uplift you, sustain you, protect and comfort you. A weekend spent with them still has me feeling warm from the tips of my toes.
A faded blue beach house in the middle of trees and vines, not really even noticeable from the road. Filled with such kindness and beauty and goodness and tragic sing-a-longs and sugar plums and chocolate and bras flung in unison – their loveliness shooting out of each of them and bouncing all around me as they danced, laughed, cooked and lazily afternoon-ed, filling me completely with what I needed to keep going – and they didn’t even know it.
Despite all the shitty and yucky things a girl can do to the other; twisting a knife, cutting a string, giving you a knot in your tummy. There is another kind of girl that doesn’t get as much notice.
The one who makes sure you have the right underwear on and enough tissues in your bag before a funeral.
The one who sits with you for hours in a dimly lit corner of a cafe, as you giggle and cry tears over soft tea light candles and a ruby red bottle, about marriage and loss and babies and work and trying to keep up with it all.
They are there for you with a handful of frozen dinners for your freezer and hot water bottle when you are at your lowest.
And they are there to give you the biggest, sorest belly laugh you have ever had in your life – the kind where you touch your ribs the next day and they hurt.
As I sit here at my sisters now, and watch as her circle talk and laugh and love in the kitchen, so relaxed by the sun as it streams it’s golden warmth across their faces, their shapes..very aware though they are also ready to pounce, to strike, to protect with venom if anyone dares to compromise any of it.
This choreographed dance never lasts for longer than it should – something else they are skilled at.
As the sun fades and lights are turned on to diminish the haze, they ensure those that are hurting have a household running smoothly, before they march out again across the now dry lawn, the heady mix of vanilla and jasmine trailing behind them.
So much focus on ugly things in this world, yet in this gold-flecked kitchen, I was surrounded by something so magnificent in its simpleness and truth.
A sisterhood. An understanding without words of what needs to be done when a sister has fallen.
Many hands knowing instinctively what to do, making light work.