Val lives across the street; she looks youngish, but she’s a grandma. She’s a mother at heart, though sometimes she talks and acts like a teenaged girl. Yesterday her shirt said Gold Digger in glittery gold script; she was hanging out of her doorway, yelling and laughing with a friend down the street. But when she’s talking to you and you’re close enough to see her eyes, then you know. She has that look of a mother, a grandmother. Eyes are deep and slightly worried looking. She has the fattest grandbaby you’d ever want to see, the creases in her thighs are so deep you have to wonder what she hides in there. She’s always got about 200 different beads and barrettes in her hair, and her eyes are wide open. James got to hold her one day; he was just sitting on Val’s stoop with them and the baby started grunting and reaching out her arms. We still don’t know her name. That’s something that hasn’t really been done here. Presence means more than the details of identity. We guessed about Val’s name and it wasn’t until 2 weeks later we had any confirmation that it was right. It doesn’t matter though. She’d be Val at this point anyway; and what matters is she’s always there.

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