I stop by each of the girls’ bedrooms on my way downstairs, but it is clear that neither is quite inclined to be released from sleep’s embrace just yet. I lean to kiss them each on the cheek, first one girl and then the other, and I head downstairs into the day. Coffee poured, I contemplate walking back upstairs to rouse the girls again, but then decide against it. Let them sleep.
I pull open the sliding door into the back yard and breathe deeply of the sunlit green. It’s going to be a hot day, but in this early-morning moment, the air is warm and comforting . . . like a soft blanket pulled from the dryer and wrapped tight against an imaginary chill. I take my coffee and my book out onto the deck, fold myself into one of the large rocking chairs, tuck my bare feet up into the folds of my robe. The neighborhood is quiet, but within the quiet there are sounds . . . the squabbling of birds, the buzz of cicadas, the chatter of squirrels and chipmunks. There is the unexpected far-off sound of a rooster crowing, the distant rumble of the train that runs through town, and some motivated someone is mowing grass. I pull my focus back into my book, the morning murmuring around me as I turn the pages.
After some time, she appears before me like some small goddess of sleep. Her hair is tousled, her eyes heavy-lidded, her cheeks flushed, her posture soft . . . as though she might melt back into shapeless slumber at my feet. She says nothing but carefully fits herself into the chair beside me, molding her warmth and her form into the curves of me.
I fold a tiny corner down and close my book, set it aside, relax into the child that is of me. I am struck, as I always am, by how this girl has the ability to fill spaces I do not know are unfilled until she pours herself into them. There are no words to express the enormity of the gratitude I feel for this gift she brings me, and so I simply rest a hand atop the perfect curve of her knee and whisper, “Morning, babe.”
She says nothing and I run my hand over the arc of her knee.
How can a knee, just a knee, speak so eloquently of youth and joy and potential?
I remember when this was my knee . . . pulled up tight against my chest with its twin, my arms wrapped around, my cheek resting against.
Just her age, my legs strong and fast with nowhere to run.
She speaks softly into the hollows of my shoulder blades, “You should come watch me sometime. When we practice, I mean. You should come watch. I’m getting good.”
“I would love to watch.”
She giggles against me, “But you are not allowed to cause a scene. Just sit quietly in the bleachers and appreciate in silence.”
“So no screaming and jumping and shouting your name?”
“No screaming or jumping or shouting my name.”
“May I clap?”
“No. You clap like a crazy person. You clap like there is going to be a prize for who claps loudest.”
“I do like to win.”
“How about bleacher-stomping?”
“No. Just sit quietly.”
She uncurls herself and leans to look into my eyes, “Also no thumbs-upping.”
“What? How can you possibly object to a thumbs-up?”
“You don’t do regular thumbs-ups . . . you do crazy-person thumbs-ups.”
“I do not!”
“Yes. Yes, you do. It’s like your whole body is overcome with pride, and you would like to do a jig of mom-joy, but you know you cannot so you squelch down the mom-jig, but then all of that outrageous pride comes out in your thumbs.”
“Well, that is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.”
She stands before me, “Here’s you watching me do . . . anything.” She pretends to watch a distant performance and then she smiles and wipes an eye with the back of her hand and points and gestures and then self-consciously pulls her hands down to her sides, holding them rigid against her body. She continues to watch the imaginary performance, leaning stiffly forward, holding her body tight until finally she swings both hands up high, thumbs extended upward in hugely exaggerated arcs through the air.
I laugh and protest, “I do not do that! That is not how I do thumbs-ups!”
She tucks back into the chair beside me, “It so is. Even though you don’t say anything, I can hear the ba-BAM in your thumbs.”
I giggle, “My thumbs say ba-BAM?”
“Yes. It’s embarrassing. Your thumbs are all . . . Oh yeah! That’s my daughter! Look at her! Ba-BAM!”
“So come to practice, but try to be proud with quiet thumbs.”
I pull her into my lap, nuzzle against her neck, “Guess what?”
She turns to look at me, “What?”
“I love you and I am very proud of you.”
She giggles, “Don’t do it!”
“I believe this pride merits a double thumbs-up.”
She sighs and snuggles against me, “Other mothers are not as odd as you are. You are the very oddest of them all.”
“I do like to win.”
We sit together, the girl and I, rocking gently as the morning-world murmurs around us and the warm air wraps us in a fresh-from-the-dryer cocoon. She melts against me, this still sleepy girl of me. She pours herself into my emptiness, and I am whole.
A very good morning.
I give this morning two thumbs up.