October 03, 2011

where have I been?

I was tucking her in.  Same routine: wash and dry her body; rub lotion into her lesion; cradle her to pour 2 ml of Propranolol down her throat; say "hi" to the three princesses on her pull-up before she slips her dark, pretty feet into the leg holes, first her right, then her left; put on the same footed pajamas, stopping the zipper halfway up to let her finish the job; hold her in the bright teal chair to read Pooh's 123 and A Little Girl's Prayer; pray for everyone in our family, ending with herself.

Until tonight, she had never said her own name.  When her perfect little mouth garbled, "Boob-uh-leeee," that was my first clue that tonight was different.

She switched off the light.  She knows that word, "off."  I switch on the noise machine and the wall fan.  That's her cue to lay her head on my shoulder for our slow walk across the short room in the almost-dark to her crib, while I sing ABCDEFG.  She lifts her head and we look at the two songbird decals on the back wall.  We chirp to them.  I lay her head on her pillow, cover her with the blanket that her daddy brought back from America for her last fall, and the blanket that her grandmother knitted for her last spring - a grandmother she has never met.

Then, as I am leaned in, and between kisses on the flat space between her black eyes, I catch a look on her face in the almost-dark.  It is a look I have never seen before.  She is as surprised by what she is feeling as I am:  she loves me.

In the next second, the look changes, and suddenly I am breaking into a million pieces.  The look says, "Where have you been all my life?"

I want to answer.  I want to tell her that I would have been there if I could have.  I want to wipe the confusion and hurt from her beautiful face.  But she is only two-years-old, and she just now knows the word, "off."  I think that perhaps, "The world is a broken place, darling, and the best we can do (for now) is make something wonderful from the pieces," is a bit too advanced for her at this point.

So I kiss her again and walk out of her room, choosing to focus on the thousand little fireworks going off in my heart.  A broken world this may be, but seven weeks after they are introduced, a daughter loves her mother.  Something wonderful, indeed.