Here lies Emily at the centre of her friends.
There is Zacharie. He is her favourite, even if it is a time she is likely to play mostly with girls. He is eight days older, but lived half as long. The flowers and toys, solar lights and statuary which surround him are always the freshest, spilling out from their allotted space. I think he shares the toys, but only if she plays his game. And she does, until she can turn it into her own.
That is Brianna, the closest of the girls. She favours pink and teddy bears and princess dolls. She lived four years longer than Emily; an elder and more experienced friend. When Emily has questions about the woods, it is Brianna who takes her hand and shows her the creek.
Here is Fiona, with her favourite doll, for whom she cares lovingly and seriously. She is much the same with her friends. Her seventeen days mean that Emily looks up to her, but not like the all-knowing Brianna. She is a truer friend, but perhaps not appreciated yet at this age.
That is Melissa. She plays with the children, but with an accent. She brings rice and a set of different tales to share with the others. Emily argues with her about how many legs dragons have and whether their wings are large or small. And she learns to settle differences.
Far over here is Demetrios, who lived to three. He joins on alternate weekends, when he is able to travel the distance. He counters the trucks and superheroes of the other boys with his love of dance, teaching the Mediterranean rhythms.
Kyle, here, is the eldest, for he lived to six. But from his graven image one sees the difference in the shape of his face and eyes and so all the children look out for him. He matches Zacharie for toys, but he gives them out at random and kindly, and then the children return them to him as they would not for others.
We parents come and go. We watch the seasons pass over our children. We learn each other’s styles: Candles, flowers, toys, a single stone. We judge each other on how long the toys rot; how far the small statues sink into the earth; how wild the roses grow. We trace the dates and compare their ages. This is how it is, to have children. Is it enough? Was it enough?
Here lies Emily at the centre of her friends. And oh, so far from me.
One day, perhaps, we will compose a proper work worthy of her. For now, it is all unpolished and ill conceived, not out of disrespect but because the heart overshadows the mind.