Dear Beautiful Girl –
There were pipe cleaners spread between us on the floor, feathers and buttons and bells and beads for fairy building on a rainy afternoon.
“Red?” I offered.
I watched the river of tension begin, the one that travels your tiny body when the words to communicate the thing you want most will not come. It starts with your fingers, which form tight balls of fist on stiffening arms. Your knees flex, your torso bounces, your head protests violently side to side. I watched the river run through you, tiny beautiful wild thing on the other side of the pipe cleaners, and with a touch of desperation I asked you a question.
“Which one do you want, baby?”
You stilled, suddenly, and looked me square in the face with those wide wild blue eyes and said firmly:
Which is how I discovered you can say orange, and at the same time, that you know your colors. I handed you the orange pipe cleaner, and you smiled casually and went about your fairy building business. I, baffled, spent the next hour grilling you – “Which one is red? Which one is brown?” and watching in disbelief as you chose the correct pipe cleaner EVERY SINGLE TIME. You had shown no interest in colors, never indicated that you might know them, never before been able to point to the “red circle” or grab the “blue ball” and here they were, all colors, suddenly yours and owned and mastered. I did not teach you this. Did I teach you this? Did you teach it to yourself? Were you teaching me?
You are a keeper of secrets, tiny wild thing, wood sprite, tempest mine. You hold your cards close until you are sure of your hand. You wait to reveal your strategy until you know the game is already won.
Your words are coming, flooding in now by twos and threes in a day, but they were slow to find you, and my heart breaks for the disappointing times I haven’t been able to interpret your frustrated grunts and gestures. I can’t imagine how strange and silent it must be to understand and not be understood, how noisy and cluttered the things you want to say must become on the back of your tongue. I can’t imagine the chorus of learning and knowing and becoming that is booming in your mind. Words have always been my gift, and I am desperate to give them to you, impatient to share them, terrible at waiting, ready, ready, so ready to know.
“Mama. Dada.” you read, pointing to the letters on the drive-through sign. Later, you are at your chalkboard scribbling “letters” underneath the ones you asked me to write and muttering “Mmmm. Aaaaah. Mmmmm. Mama.”
Everything is stirring. Anything might be.
Minutes ago, and also years, you were the tiny body held closest to mine, soothed simply with carrying and feeding and songs. You were mine as much as the palms of my hands or the beat of my heart. Now, seconds later, a swift skip in time, there are secrets between us – things you know and have not yet chosen to tell me, things you are that I haven’t discovered, things you want to say that are simply awaiting the words. And motherhood is always the opening and the breaking, the push and the pull – as you are becoming, you are more and more your own and less and less mine, but as you are becoming, I have the privilege of getting to know you, the you I will know for the rest of my life, the you I will watch you grow into. There is always, daily, the loss and the gain.
I sneak into your room in the early morning and whisper words into your sleeping ears, the ones that I want to give you, the ones that I want you to keep. I love you bigger than the sky. I love you deeper than the sea. I pull your damply sleeping big girl body onto mine and breathe in the still-baby smell of you and give you the best of the words that I know. I love you wider than the world. I love you taller than the stars.
You are my favorite mystery, tiny beautiful girl, and I count and I cherish your words as they come. And time is a thing that will keep on slipping as we try to catch it. Let us revel, let us whisper, let us celebrate the trying.