She was three years old. A little black girl whom I knew for only a short while, I will likely remember for a very, very long time.
I took my kids to a movie tonight. Actually more than a movie, it seemed to be an expensive extravaganza. I picked them up around 3:30 from their afterschool programs and surprised them with a trip to see what I thought was going to be Santa Claus, followed by a Christmas movie.
My local cinema had a free Christmas movie night and I knew we needed to be early. I got the dates wrong regarding Santa though. I got there very early and they were really excited. A person in the parking lot confirmed there is no Santa today. That’s next month. So of course I got the sounds of disappointment from my children. I was wondering how I could make up for the fact that Santa won’t be there, so we went to a restaurant in the shopping center while we waited for the movie to start. We never go out to eat because I can’t afford it, but I knew this would win them over.
We had a nice dinner together and I sat with my children just the three of us. I have felt very observant today. I watched them talk to each other and interact with one another and they made me laugh several times. I was analyzing both of them, as I do; how they were feeling, how excited they were about going out with just their Mom, whether or not they liked their dinner. I just spent about an hour soaking them in and didn’t really think about much else.
I felt a little bit sick early into dinner and I felt like my face was getting hot and my anxiety was kicking in. I sucked down two watered down margaritas within that time, hoping to calm my nerves. I didn’t feel like a bad Mom being that we were going to be in this shopping plaza for the next five hours, so I sucked them down over the hour.
We left the restaurant and walked down to the movie theater where we stood in line for a short while. Our movie was to start at 7:20. The line let loose for entry at 5:30.
We go inside the theater and decided to watch Arthur Christmas which was one of four movies showing tonight. I wasn’t particularly excited about it, being that it was animated. I would have preferred Home Alone. It was however, my kids’ night, and I let them choose.
We get into the movie theater which was mostly empty we were so early. I find three seats in the center of the theater somewhere in the middle. And so it begins. About half an hour into our wait, the theater starts filling in. There’s an empty row in front of me and many seats to my right and left. All over really. A friendly black woman asks me if the seats to my left are taken, and I say no and wave her in. She and her two children pilied in with her tiny three-year-old daughter immediately to my left.
This woman was probably my age, heavy set as I am, with two beautiful children. A boy and a girl. The boy was seven and as we got to know one another, her daughter was three. I asked the little girls name and she had a stutter and I had no idea what her name was but I told her whatever she muttered, sounded beautiful. She said something like Yaya very very softly. I responded Yaya? And she said no Yaya. I shook my head as if I understood and so Yaya it was, for me.
I wasn’t exactly sure with all the room in the theater why they decided to sit immediately next to me, leaving me no space. I knew shortly however the reason why. There was about another half hour that was a little bit awkward with so many empty seats around the six of us were all sitting next to one another, almost like we were family.
But aren’t we?
I give my kids some money and Aiden my Fitbit to tell time and send them to play some games for about 20 minutes. At this time I take out my phone and start scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, the news, and various other apps I have on my phone. It’s going to be a long two hours.
It looks like Yaya wanted my attention. I could hear her tiny voice talking to me and I was initially ignoring her, trying to take in my quiet moment to myself which I never get, ever. Feeling a little guilty for ignoring her I then feel a little tap on my arm. I was a little bit annoyed being that now I was getting antsy. My body was uncomfortable, my mouth was hurting a little bit as I had a tooth pulled about a week and a half ago. My knees hurt, I felt really fat, I was getting a headache, I knew it was going to be about 2 plus more hours before I was out of the theater. I put down my phone gently and patiently looked down to her and she waved me to come whisper something in my ear.
“I love you.”
She whispered to me, “I love you.”
This was the beginning of some deep reflection as well as choking back tears for the next two hours. I told Yaya I loved her too.
Her mom took a phone call that lasted for a while. Yaya and I started getting to know each other better. She was telling me all of the colors on her sweater. I was telling her how smart she was and what a great job she was doing. Yaya and I were friends. I tickled her a time or two and we talked about things I don’t remember.
My kids came back after about 20 minutes, I gave them more money, and they left again. This went on and on, in 20 minute intervals, multiple times. Yaya and I cozied up to one another. I could see her Mom in my peripheral vision laughing at us and keeping a close eye on her daughter. She seemed awfully comfortable that she and I were interacting with one another. This said a lot about her. To give her some relief that I’m not some creepy stranger, I would tell her here and there how sweet her daughter was and repeat things she was saying to make her laugh and dote.
The movie was about to start and the lights went down, and Yaya got very comfortable.
As I mentioned she was three years old, very tiny, bright eyes, beautiful little baby teeth, lots of them, a wide cheeseburger smile, a million little braids all over her hair, perfectly parted and shiny. She had soft tiny little hands and the lightest touch. The lights went down and Yaya rested her head on my arm holding it like a pillow. I could see her Mom looking at us and I would look at her and smile. I let Olivia stay there through majority of the movie.
When this first happened my kids we’re antsy. Addison was getting jealous. I put my right hand on her thigh to assure her I loved her too. Yaya and I sat there watching the beginning of this movie with her laying her head on me and I started to cry to myself.
This sweet, beautiful, wonderful, tiny soul has no idea what is happening in our world today. She doesn’t know how horrible and disgusting and awful it is right now. She doesn’t see color, she doesn’t see fear, she has a beautiful little heart and it made me so fucking sad. I kept telling myself to stop thinking about it and focus on the movie or I was going to burst into tears. I took the sleeve of my sweater and I dotted my eyes, multiple times.
Soon I had Yaya and Addison, laying against my arms and my heart could have exploded at that moment. I wanted somehow to talk to Yaya’s heart through my heart, and tell her how wonderful and beautiful she is. I wanted to tell her that not everyone is a racist and not everyone is a bad person and not everyone is hateful. I tried to shake off these thoughts through the entire movie and told myself I would write about this later.
I had a sweater jacket tied around my waist and I nudged the girls up, to put it on to make it their stay more comfortable.
About halfway through the movie Yaya took the arm of her Mom. A short while later, Dad showed up and squeezed in and put the son on his lap. I took that opportunity to reach out to my own children and finish the movie.
I could hear the Mom laugh a beautiful soulful laugh. This movie that I particularly wasn’t crazy about, was making her feel happy. It gave me happiness that she was able to let go of whatever trouble she may be experiencing as a human being to enjoy a lighthearted movie with her family. I felt very lucky that for a moment, I was a part of it.
At the end of the movie, I made sure to say goodbye to Yaya. The thought of never seeing her again was about to make me cry. As the lights were going up I turned to Yaya and I told her I hope she has a very Merry Christmas! I asked the Mom to confirm her name, and the Mom smiled and she said, “Olivia”. I told her she had a beautiful family and to enjoy the rest of her night.
Good night sweet, Yaya. May God bless you, always. You are in my heart tonight.