They leave their muddy handprints on my wall, on my white, freshly painted wall. I’m sorry, Amma, they tell me, we’ll clean it for you.
I laugh and tell them not to bother. We’ll frame them, I say. Frame them for the days when you’re gone and I’m left here alone.
They laugh at that. They always laugh. It’s so impossible for such little ones to think that someday they’ll be up and gone, and I’ll be here by myself, learning to live without muddy handprints on my white walls.
I’ve seen it before. Many times.
They always laugh.
And they always leave.
I can hear them running in the garden outside, and I push away the curtain and watch them out the window. I’ve had many children go through my home. Hundreds, even. I’m a caretaker, a guardian. I see them born, I see them grow, I see them laugh and live and breathe and die. My mortal children. What a privilege it is, what a privilege to witness their lives, their hopes, their dreams. I have never lived, never aged, never moved on. I will never die. I see them come as newborn babies, children so small they might have been born yesterday, and I see them take their last breath. I bury them. I bury their children. Their grandchildren.
I never age.
But I have the privilege of watching it. That, at least, is some comfort. So long as I can keep the handprints on my walls.