Sometime, over the past few days, over the past few weeks, over some period of time that I have lost track of, WonderBaby became a little girl.
I don’t know when or how it happened. It wasn’t overnight; I would have noticed if she’d gone to bed a baby and awoken a girl. That is, at least, I think that I would have noticed. You would think that one would notice something so extraordinary as the transformation of one’s baby into a child. You would think that one would notice the body unfolding from its coil of plushy arms and legs, of curvy belly and apple cheeks, into a soft-muscled miniature form of the whole person that it will become.
You would think that you would notice, but you don’t.
My eyes only see my baby. My heart only registers her newness, her vulnerability, the extraordinary miracle of her having come-to-be. My daughter is, to me, still small and new and surprising. No matter how fierce, how fast, how powerful she demonstrates herself to be, she is still, to me, baby
. And I am, to me, as a mother, still small and new and surprised. No matter how good at this I think I am still, to me, new.
She and I, then, are – must be – baby and mommy. I cradle her, and she presses herself against me and holds on to me, for life, for dear life, and I can only feel her as baby. Soft, downy, fragrant, curvy. Even in the dead heat of summer, as damp tendrils of wispy hair become pressed, wet, like flowers, between her neck and my cheek, as rivulets of body-water, streaked with the dirt of the sandbox, run down between her warm round belly and my own, she is, to me, as sweet and new as spring.
But, then, she pulls away and unfolds her long legs and demands her shoes. And then we walk, she and I, hand-in-hand to the park, where she breaks away and runs – speeds – to the slide, to the sawhorse, to her beloved swing (whing! whing! up mommy up! whing!), to the other children, running playing shrieking laughing breaking away.
And I wonder, when did this happen? And, how did I not see it happening? How did I not notice the moment when she uncoiled, unfurled, flowered into this little human being, this tiny independent creature who runs so fast and so far and so assuredly and who returns only to grab my hand not for her own comfort but for mine? Now mommy come.
Every day she flies higher, faster, further. Every day I look on in amazement, blinking against the sun, the rush of air, as my baby, my wee baby, takes flight. Every day I am astonished. Every day I am surprised.
Every day I whisper, softly, to myself: this is too fast.
The carousel spins and the swing soars and she runs and runs and shrieks with glee, feeling only the wind in her hair, the exhilaration of flinging herself into this world. I see only the blur of the landscape of our life together as it speeds by.
I squeeze my eyes together and I wish wish wish that it would slow down.