Once upon a time, I read Three Little Kittens as you climbed onto my lap and gingerly plucked from a bowl strawberries that I had painstakingly chopped into thin slivers for fear of clogging a tiny, miraculous airway.
You came across Three Little Kittens in an anthology the other night and I had to remind you that it used to be your favorite. We read it when you woke up in the morning and before you went to bed at night and a dozen times in between. You carried it with you everywhere, cradling it under your arm or resting it on your lap, a constant companion through your toddling hours. One day, just as you cracked the book wide, a stomach bug presented itself. Our old, frail Golden Book copy was done. That night, after I put you to bed whimpering for your beloved book, I scoured the internet for a comparable copy less than $50.00. I finally found one. It still sits on your bookshelf, lost between thicker spines.
Now, you read about mummies and polar bears or the latest escapades of Ivy & Bean. You tell me about King Tut’s tomb as I paint your toenails. You proffer a guess at the culprit’s identity in the new Nancy Clancy book while you dip whole strawberries in Nutella because the time when I needed to slice them tissue thin is long gone.
Hello, teeth that wiggle, rainbow loom bracelets that fall to the bottom of your backpack, cowgirl boots that lead you into a day separate from mine. The other day when we were out, I noticed your lips were chapped so I dug around the bottom of my purse to find chapstick but all I came up with was a tube of dark cherry lip gloss. I dabbed my finger with the sticky stuff then smeared some on your lips, much to your delight. Instantly, I saw you ten years into the future, plump lips coated candy red, cornflower curls shading stormy eyes, your own purse with your own chapstick, a swift smear of lip gloss no longer a thrill.
Sometimes you catch me staring at you. “What?”
“Nothing,” I say, though I want to ask, “Who are you?”
I’ve memorized all of you — the coffee stain birthmark on your ankle, the lashes that fall over sleeping starfish eyes, the tickle of curls that slip through my fingers, the butter skin of your arms as they drape around my neck — but you surprise me every day. Thoughts and ideas and questions tumble from your lips in forms I didn’t realize you were capable of articulating, illustrating more clearly than ever the slope of time and a point along its continuum when you will ask this question yourself: Who am I?
This answer will change and take many forms. You will explore options and challenge beliefs and seek understanding and test boundaries and make mistakes and question your capabilities all in the quest to find yourself, and all of this is okay as long as you don’t lose sight of this one constant: you are loved.
You are loved.
P.S. Hello, 6