The Neighbor Girls

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They come running down the hill,
their eyes wide and mouths open,
preparing to shriek out their joy
as soon as they see it. The mud hole
is still here; my four year old has
already refilled it with hose water
and asked if her friends can
come over again. They are eight
and ten and live four houses down,
these two new neighbor girls.

Last night they stayed out here til dark,
played with my younger daughters
until they were caked in layers
of dried dirt and grass before telling me,
”You are the nicest mom ever!
Ours doesn’t let us play
in the mud. She is going to kill us.”

I pause under the weight of this statement,
then stand up and turn the hose back on.
”Come here, you two,” I hear myself say
before rinsing their hands, arms, legs,
and feet. They thank me and take off
giggling down the street, not knowing
that most days I am just a little girl, too,
aching to cover myself in the earth
but too afraid to get dirty.