Marionettes by Christina Ray Henry

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Her chubby little arms swaying as she careens down the mountain are all I can think of again this morning. The way her body’s flopped forward, and she stares at the snow passing underneath her. Her dad’s holding her up, her skis tucked between his. He’s trying to share this moment with her, but she appears more puppet than human. 

I try to bring my attention back to this damn mountain of laundry beside me, to focus on folding each piece in crisp thirds. It needs to be folded the Martha Stewart way. That’s his way, or his mother’s. They’re so entwined I’m not certain he has his own way. I run my hand along the crease of his jeans. At least I came to this marriage knowing how to properly fold a pair of pants. I pull my daughter’s olive-green hoodie from the pile. It’s the same color as the coat of that toddler on the mountain. 

Her dad shuffles her through the lift line, her hands swinging back and forth. Her whole body is limp, but he just keeps dragging her forward. He scoops her up onto the lift, and she looks catatonically at the vast whiteness before her. 

I know I should be happy here, surrounded by cream-colored walls in a safe suburban neighborhood. Robins chirp gleefully as I tuck one of my socks into another. Fuck Marie Kondo and Martha Stewart and their damageless way of folding socks. I want to stretch the binding until it won’t pull back together; I’m sick of everything feeling so constrictive. One of my husband’s socks lies at the peak of the pile. I toss the loose singleton into his basket. There is a right way to fold socks, and it isn’t mine. 

That dad pulls his daughter from the lift. There is a pride in his eyes. I know he is trying to impart his love of winter sports. He seems blissfully unaware of how disengaged she is. I want to tear her free from him, but I know I’m not strong enough to get both of us down the mountain. My legs are exhausted from all the runs I’ve done before. 

The pile of clothes is starting to diminish, but there is another in the dryer waiting to be folded. Sometimes I feel uncertain how I ended up here. I am pretty sure I am supposed to be enjoying this, but my flaccid spirit is being hurtled forward on someone else’s path. 

He’s taking her up again. I’m coming down. We start so young. Maybe they’re right, and eventually we’ll find joy in the descent.

Christina Ray Henry is a native Midwesterner. She is a sufficient handbell ringer, adequate second soprano, and former potter. An admirer of many art disciplines, she has added wrestling with words to the list of skills she is struggling to develop. Her work can be found in New Feathers Anthology, Intrinsick, and Anti-Heroin Chic.

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