Sometimes the still and quiet of night invites thought that fills, then overflows my heart, and I am stunned in its wake.
My oldest baby woke me up 49 minutes ago because "something was wrong", she couldn’t stop shaking. Hearing the fear in her voice, as I startled from vapored dreams I’ll never remember, I was concerned, too. I don’t remember the last time she awakened me because she was sick…it has been that long.
She’s 15. F i f t e e n. Time’s elusiveness is never more cruel than when measured against the lives of my children. Looking back, a parade of memory and milestone marches before me–haughtily? hauntingly?–a time-lapsed photographic montage of temper tantrums and lost teeth, dress-up and dollies, deep belly laughs and oceans of tears–the latter, as determined by circumstance, either breaking my heart in sympathetic commiseration or boiling blood in frustration.
A reluctant glance ahead reminds me I’ve got her four more years. Less than, really…and like beads of mercury rolling among shards of shattered, tempered glass on a tiled bathroom floor, I can’t quite grasp all that I want to, and if I’m not attentive, careful, I’ll miss something. Or even get hurt.
She had me wrapped, you know, just moments after her lungs drew first oxygen. I don’t even have to close my eyes to see her tightly swaddled form. I remember thinking she looked like an ice cream cone–her body, a perfect elongated triangle, and her tiny rounded head, a flawless single scoop, only with dark eyes blinking at the world around her, and a tiny tongue curiously licking miniature ruby lips. This is the child who would, in just a few years, charm her way into holding precious gift shop collectibles, assuring me with a practiced solemnity belying her age, that she only "wanted to kiss it"; which is just what she did with countless porcelain kitties and bunnies and doll statuettes, never breaking one in the process.
She wouldn’t understand this, but she’s my hero and my teacher (as are all of our children). Always a reserved child, she has never drawn attention to herself, she preferred invisibility. This is something that took years for me to understand. Because I was outgoing, for a season, I tried to "help" her overcome her shyness; eventually I learned there is, in fact, a subtle difference between "shy" and "reserved" ("shy" tends to avoid people; "reserved" simply limits whom you allow into your world) and truly there’s nothing wrong with either.
Over the past six months, we’ve witnessed her metamorphosis from a girl to a young woman. I wasn’t prepared for this, the richness and grace of watching someone "become". Slowly, she has allowed the veil that for so long has hidden her, to lower, to reveal more of herself–she has begun allowing herself to be "seen". This probably sounds crazy, maybe it doesn’t make sense to speak it, but observing the subtle changes has been a privilege, a delight. How clearly the cycle from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly has become metaphor for her life.
It has been a landmark summer for her–her first cell phone, she can drive, and she’s a high school freshman. I noticed when asked her grade, she never said "ninth", it was always "freshman". Her response when questioned about my observation amused me (and I think her, too): "We have a title, Mom…it’s sounds so much better to have a title than just a grade." Of course, what was I thinking?
She is rare and exquisite, and by choice, an innocent; not ignorant in the ways of the world, but somehow set apart. The gravity of what is pure and right draws her much more so than the allure of a confused culture that finds identity in celebrity. Her countenance and steady faith challenge me at times.
On our trip out west, she casually remarked she’d like to go to school "out there". My knee-jerk response? "You can’t!" She said, "Why not? It’s beautiful here," and I said, "If you do, you’ll fall in love with someone and marry him and move far away from home." Her next words were barbed daggers to my heart: "But, Mom…you’ve always said you were raising us for someone else, not for yourself." My own words, returned back to me, reminding me to hold her with an open hand (who knew how painful that could be?).
And so tonight, as I laid in her
bed with her, my body wrapped around hers to quell the shake, I purred words of calm and reassurance…together we metered our breathing, slowly four counts in, two counts out…and as mind and body relaxed, her shaking gradually subsided.
In that moment, I wished for the rest of her life i could bring
healing in a touch…in my quiet whispers…in silent prayers…
For now, I’m thankful I still can.