By Water, By Fire

It has been raining for days, and in the meadow everything upturned is holding water. Barefoot, we slip on sequined blades of grass; wildflowers bloom in crowds on stems as long as your legs. Oh, what is this most beautiful flower I have ever seen? you ask, looking up at me, the lace framing your face like the ring around the neck of your baptismal dress.

You were two then, in the sanctuary, where I stood beside you in my beige silk suit, ready to be baptized too, even at that late date, because rites of passage—like wildflowers—are only awesome accidents. You didn’t know that when I was a girl I heard my grandmother swear to her daughter, I love all my grandchildren the same, even the ones who were never baptized. And I saw my mother’s eyes catch her mother’s lie.

In the candlelit church, you seemed too innocent to grasp the mysterious wounds of mothers and daughters. But, when the minister pronounced, Somehow, some way, some day you will be caught—you seized my leg, and whispered, I don’t want to be caught, Mommy! Bumped, the altar candle rocked and swung and snuffed its flame against my shoulder. A stream of black wax bled down my sleeve before the candle crashed to the floor. After the service, I showed the minister my scar and said, Now I have been baptized by water and fire.

The truth is I cannot help that you will stumble and fall and lose your way and so will I. But here in the meadow this day, at ten, you look up at me still certain I can solve the mystery of beautiful things. I bend my face in the basin of moist, white thread. It’s Queen Ann’s Lace, I say.

Kelly DuMar's plays, short stories and poems are inspired by nature, family, and her belief in the artistry of shared stories to transform individuals and communities. Her most recent publications include short stories, poems and short plays in Sliver of Stone, Open Road Review, Literary Mama, Lingerpost, Blast Furnace, Art Age and Foxing Quarterly. Kelly lives in the Boston area where she founded and produces the Our Voices Festival of Women Playwrights at Wellesley College, now in its 8th year.