Outside, the scent of Jasmine lingers around our doorway, emanating from the vine that creeps up and around the ironwork just in front of our house. The orchid by the steps now sports three flowers. All of our hibiscus bushes are in bloom. Otherworldly dragonflies glide through the air as the sun casts its light on their iridescent bodies and paper-thin wings. We pick the wild dandelions that have cropped up in the yard. Taking a breath, we send a hundred seedlings flying! Bubbles fly, too. I blow steadily into a plastic wand and watch my daughter run through the yard giggling. One lands on a blade of grass – she crouches down and watches it POP. Together we bring chalk drawings to life on the sidewalk. She loves lying down on a cool part of the pavement while I trace her figure. We venture out back where I sit beneath a towering tomato plant whose branches yearn to escape the cage that keeps it upright. Reaching through the fuzzy leaves and into the shadowy nether end, I pull out a plump tomato, ripened by what sunrays reached the hidden fruit. I dig my teeth into the red flesh and turn my head toward the sky as I taste Spring burst forth. Piper tries to pick green tomatoes as I cherish the moment, looking for more to eat.
Inside, we read books in every room. I lift my daughters arms up high into the air like Little Nutbrown Hare in Guess How Much I Love You. She watches as I stretch my own way up above my head, wiggling my fingers. This much. We sit in bed and leaf through the browned pages of Madeline, my own childhood copy. She looks with interest at the yellow and black illustrations, and listens carefully as we count 1-2-3-4-5-6, 7-8-9-10-11-12 little girls in two straight lines. She fidgets through any telling of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, though I still love, as ever, the naughty bunny who narrowly escapes a run-in with Mr. McGregor. After all, he gets to come home to his doting mother who tucks him into bed with a cup of chamomile tea, while all his other siblings dine on milk and blackberries and currant bread.
Piper lugs a yoga mat out of the corner of the room and manages to unfold it. I push back into downward dog, and she bends beneath me to give me a big, wet, kiss. Then, excitedly, I am circled round and round and round until I finally come up and out of the pose. We both lie on our backs and grab our toes, glancing at each other and smiling. Later, she sits very still while I tickle her back. Patting her belly, she lets me know it’s time to do her front. I think about when she’s older, and when her height will surpass my own (it’s only a matter of time). Will she still need tickles and scratches then?
A broken Winnie the Pooh glass. Tiny Acini di pepe pastas thrown defiantly onto the floor. Games of chase throughout the house and yard. Tears when daddy’s lunch break ends. Clinging when an airplane flies overhead, or when mommy needs to use the bathroom. We get through the chaos and the struggles that occur daily with a toddler, and in the end I am witness to the growth of a little individual as she navigates and manages her world — the same we both live in, but somehow, differently. Never have I given myself so much to another person, been rendered as vulnerable or as strong, as I have with my daughter. I love Will as completely and deeply, and yet we both know his life is in his own hands: he is a grown man that can survive and persevere in this world on his own, though we have chosen to join our lives together and enrich one another with the spirit of love and unyielding support. With a child it is somewhat different. Even as Piper learns how to occupy her space in this world, I must guide her, encourage her, and cultivate a safe space for her where she can grow strong, confident, and independent. I imagine even when she is a woman and I am old, I will guide her still, as parents have done for their children since the beginning of time. I suppose reading this last bit back, I understand that partners, friends, and siblings can love each other as deeply, and that not just children but people of all types need guidance, a safe place, support and encouragement, too. Maybe it’s hard to realize that at 6′ tall and learned in the martial arts Will would need me in this way, but what a naïve thought that appears now — especially as I have given further reflection on the nature of the heart and know that our marriage is still fresh, and that our lives seem spread before us. One thought does feels certain – and that is that the heart can grow, and give love in quantities unknown until felt. In some manner to love so deeply and honestly hurts — but how blissful it can feel, too! A mentor once told me that in any given situation we have a chance to shrink or to grow, and I am thankful that I have often chosen the latter, as I have become more myself in doing so.
Enough thoughts for today! Enjoy the week ahead and here’s to hoping there’s some wonderful Spring adventures in store for all of us–