Children are wretched secret-keepers because they haven't yet learned to detach themselves from the rest of humanity and live solely in their own heads. This is arguably their greatest attribute.

My sons told my daughter about my mother. It was an accident, an off-the-cuff like duh remark made one day in passing that she zeroed in on and has been hunting since.

Your mother hurt you?

Your mother doesn't...

She cannot grasp the concept of a mother not loving her child and I thank every god I can think of for this gift.

She associated fear with the word 'mother', and I cannot make this better for her. She was thrust, headfirst, into her gene pool and now she will have to learn to swim in it, just as I did. She cries sometimes because she doesn't want to grow anymore so she can't be married so she won't have babies and I tell her that she doesn't have to do any of those things. I hold her in my arms and tell her lies that feel like wishes; you don't have to grow anymore. You can stay right here in my arms forever. I will always be your momma and you will always be my little girl and no one can change that.

Her questions come faster than I can bear to answer them, ruthlessly unrelenting, hashing over old details that taste bitter against my tongue. I sweeten and spice and kneed them so they are palatable to her fragile heart. She asks what did you do, and I answer nothing every single time, as if the repetition will lead to belief. She wonders why I don't call my mother and I tell her that I don't know where she is. She informs me emphatically that I need to tell my faddur and he will tell my mudder that I am sorry, because if you say you're sorry and you mean it then everything can be okay again.

I take her face into my hands and stare as deeply as I can into her perfect big brown wondrous eyes and I tell her that she is right, silly old me; I will do that right away.

The shades of gray that color the excuses I make for what happened - my mother was broken and it wasn't her fault, that it didn't hurt me and I am not sad - give way to the vibrance she recklessly splashes across my past.

She asks me if we can go see my mudder after my fadder talks to her and I say in crimsons of course we can, bugga-boo. She asks if my mother will hurt her and I tell her pensively orange no, my mother will love you so much. The truth in that statement rips new holes in my heart. She asks what we will do and I tell her powder-bluely that my mother will read you a story and you will have tea and you could even brush my mother's hair if you'd like; she always loved that. She asks what color my mother's hair is and I realize that my mother isn't yet a person for her, merely a concept.

This has nothing to do with my mother, and everything to do with knowing that her mother can be hurt.

I keep waiting for her to move on from this but she cannot. So I continue to lie to her, and I will as long as she will let me, because I don't know how to share this truth with a five year old child. I cannot. She tells me that maybe she could grow up, and when she does she can be my mother, and I tell her that would be the grandest thing of all, gosh you'd make a good momma for me. She sleeps easier, knowing she has healed me, while not knowing at all that she is healing me.

Together we paint different pictures over this canvas I drag around with me, flooding the gray spaces of my life with her bright lightness.

{Separate yet equal: we're talking on Momversation about tragedies, and how much you tell your kids.}