I remember lying in the hospital room after Miss M was yanked from my body, and staring at her--how can a person's body make something so incredibly amazing? And yet so alien-like and freakish? All at once? Yes, yes, Biologists--I KNOW the scientific process; but sleeping babies are all about magic.
I remember watching her tiny body sleep, thinking: she will never be any more perfect than she is right now--she has never had a bug bite, a scratch, a pimple; she has never had anything tragic happen to her (well, unless being ripped from the liquid warmth of a safe womb counts), there's not a single thing in her world right now to mar her perfection. I remember thinking: here is a human being who's a completely clean slate, existing in the most perfect state of being humans ever get to exist in. (I do sometimes think most of our navel gazing as adults is a dull, pathetic attempt to go back to this state of perfect perfection, to recapture the precise moments in which we were absolutely Okay. Before, you know, our parents' and their parents' and all of our ancestral baggage laid claim to our innate wellness, and the boxing match of wills with the Universe began.)
I remember strapping her baby body into the car seat and climbing in next to her and realizing: Wow. They just...GIVE these things to you. No instruction manuals, no stickers, no warning labels. Just: Here ya go. Try not to have Child Services called or anything. (So far, so good! Fingers crossed.)
I remember standing in her bedroom one night, holding her soft, sweet, little body cradled on my shoulder, and I remember watching us sway together in a mirror, with a soft nightlight illuminating the room around us...it didn't really feel real then, and I remember thinking: One day, I won't be able to do this with her anymore, and I should burn this moment into my brain forever and ever and hold onto it as tight as I possibly can. And I did. And it is still there. As if it we just did that yesterday.
And then one year passed, and two, and three, and now here we are. At age six. Six! As each year comes and goes, someone will invariably say to me: Oh, I love this age! This was my favorite age. Enjoy her at this age. They grow up so fast and this age will never come again. And then I will spend that whole year going: Wow. You know, I really do miss that one age that one person told me three years ago not to miss...but this age? pssh. Let's go age (X)! I am soooo very over YOU, age (X), and all your ridiculous issues. (Each age has its unique challenges, is what I think I'm trying to say...and you will never appreciate how easy those challenges were until you're looking at them in the muddied rear view mirror of Life's macho, over-the-top, gas guzzling monster truck.)
Miss M can practically read now. I started typing this right before she fell asleep, and she was using her phonics skills to try to sound out what I was typing. Before I know it, I won't be able to get away with things like spelling out the location of her hidden birthday gifts in front of her.
And she's in love! With strangers and little boys in her class alike. You guys! This is so different from four years ago, when she was mostly concerned with Yo Gabba Gabba and getting enough yaw-yee bops (lollipops) at her birthday party. In four years from now, when she is 10, will I be longing for the days when she just obsessed over little boys who wanted nothing to do with girls, boy bands from Britain, and Frozen ice princesses? (Probably.)
I think childhood is magical. I wish I'd known, when I was growing up, that I was partaking in this very strange, delicious bit of sorcery called Childhood. And this makes me wish more children were like Peter Pan, who totally understood what odd blackness is afoot when a body and mind begin to get bigger and older. Instead, I was like I think a lot of children are, including my own Miss M: I kept thinking older would better and wiser and I'd have more freedom. When I was six, I couldn't wait to be ten. When I was ten, I thought 16 was when it all started to come together. When I was 16, I was certain 21 was when the magic finally happened. When I was 21, it hadn't sunk in yet that this is IT. There IS no older or wiser or freedom. Just one more year and then another year after that and one more after that.
Year 21 seems to be where Childhood goes to die.
(This may be one reason why some people are driven to have children, but now we're going down a philosophical path that's less about M and more about her Mommy so let's backtrack to the most important part of this essay, shall we?)
Miss M is my most very favorite human on the entire planet. I cannot think of anyone who makes me happier, angrier, more in love, more frustrated, more joyous, more scared, more amazed, and more complete than little Miss M. I remember feeling sort of restless and without form for a good 30 or so years...and then, one day, staring down at a plus sign on a pregnancy stick feeling blown away. It wasn't until a doctor showed me her shadowy form and beating, tiny heart on an ultrasound that I truly believed she was in there. And when I believed that, I felt a huge surge, a tremendous rush of relief, and sort of deep, visceral knowledge: I can plant my feet now. This is why I had to go through THAT tunnel to scale THAT bridge to rock climb THAT cliff. So I could plant my feet, right HERE. With you, dear Child.
I remember sitting very still with her inside of me, before I could feel her move around, knowing that this is what God is like: you can't see, feel, or hear God...but God is in there, somewhere. And then I remember the feeling of her tiny feet swiping around my insides, and knowing: this is what God is like: you can't see or hear or talk to God...but occasionally there will be a swipe, a little something to let you know, Hey there, hello out there--yes! It's ME, I'm really in here.
And then out she came--six years ago. Sucking maniacally on her fingers, hungry from the start. Screaming and shaking balled up fists at the world angrily, on cue, every night from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm when she finally gave out and let go of whatever chapped her little buns every single day. Curly-haired in ways that make her scream like she's being tortured by the Spanish Inquisition when we comb hair. Demanding and indignant, yet kind-hearted and silly. A lover of jokes about farts and stinky feet, terrified of the dark and the Big Bad Wolf, a princess-wannabe, and a budding Oscar/Emmy/Golden Globe winning actress. A reader and a writer with really bad handwriting. Dances like Seinfeld's Elaine, but not with wolves (or dogs, because those terrify her, too). A reluctant swimmer-turned-mermaid. A singer of inappropriately adult songs because her mother refused to listen to kid song CDs on long car rides when she was a baby. An advanced cusser, curator of swears, because her mother also couldn't get a handle on her road rage issues on morning car rides early in M's life. A night owl and grumpy morning person (like her mother); overly opinionated and bossy (like her father).
She loves princesses and the color pink in ways that make me nervous, so thank god for a sporty dad who's turned her onto soccer and insists she play outside in the dirt as much as possible. She has a musician's soul, but if you could see the song playlist she's demanded I create on my Spotify account for her so we can listen to HER songs in the car, I feel confident in saying you'll agree with me when I contend that Iggy Azalea is simply not a good influence for a six year old's developing psyche or brain. Lourde, maybe. But definitely not Iggy. Don't even get me started on Miley Cyrus.
She would stamp her feet and scowl at you for agreeing with me about that, and try to manipulate you by saying something morose and sad like, "Well then. I guess that proves YOU don't love me EITHER!!!!" before flouncing off to slam her bedroom door. Later, she'll come out and insist on watching STAR WARS or Minecraft or something boy-ish, and will act like she doesn't know she has two X chromosomes because she'll giggle relentlessly about fart jokes. This will make you wonder: (a) where did the angry girly girl go? Not that I miss her, but seriously--where is she? and (b) should I be worried? is this early hormonal surges...or bipolar?
And then, if you are very sad and crying, or you stub your toe or get a case of really bad cramps, Miss M The Future Psychotherapist and Nurse will swoop in to salve your wounds with back rubs and shushes: "It's okay...don't worry...breathe...just breathe...it will be okay...you'll be okay, I promise..." Because this is what she hears all the time herself...no, seriously, like 50 times a day, because every day something makes her sob with inconsolable abandon, or she insist she has a mortal flesh wound somewhere.
Are you getting that she's exhausting? But it's a good exhausting. It's a "I wish I didn't have a job where I have to spend all day with 25 other people's kids so I could really focus on your amazingness" kind of exhausting. But that's okay, because I think most children exhaust their parents, if most children are doing their jobs correctly.
But more than any of that, I think she's grand. Just darling and very, very grand. I think, one day, she'll take her inappropriate song lyrics-loving, giggling soccer star princess self to far flung places and teach the natives how to fart and belch in ways that will send them into peals of ridiculous laughter, especially if they do so while in a bathtub. And I think she'll be a big, massive super star one day, and also that if she actually does become an Oscar winning actress, she'll also become an Oscar winning screenwriter/director/producer at the same time, because if there's one thing in the world Miss M can't stand, it's to be told what to do, and she's too opinionated to let other people have the final say anyway.
I think my little Miss M's got transcendent, iridescent, impossibly large fairy wings, finely threaded with the purest of pink glitter-dust, hidden under her mud-soaked soccer uniform, and my biggest wish, each year as she inches closer to Year 21, each moment we pass other people's Favorite, Most Enjoyable Ages of Childhood, is that one morning she'll wake up to realize the Big Bad Wolf knows all about her hidden, impossibly large, iridescently pink glitter fairy wings; that the existence of these wings actually strike terror deep within him and he is afraid of her, far more than she could ever imagine being afraid of him. My heart wants her heart to know this makes her more powerful than she knows, much more capable than she realizes, that she is able to weave certain kinds of alchemy in the world that would marvel Merlin.
In fact, one day, when she DOES realize all of that, I hope I'm there to see her peel off the soccer uniform, unfurl her pink glitter fairy wings; I hope I'm allowed to witness her flights to as many wild and majestic places of terrifying splendors as she can find. Because I know she will conquer these places, and that these places will be better for having experienced her and she will be stronger for having experienced them. And I pray I will not be too exhausted and can marvel at her artistically adept ability to weave wonder at everything and inside everyone she touches, even when she stamps her feet with all her completely indignant, over-the-top, opinionated, control freak demands along the way.
But for today? I'm just trying to keep all the Frozen- and One Direction-themed shit hidden, because she's also pretty wily at figuring out my game plans.
I love you, Sweet Melissa. My entire life got better when you came out of me six years ago.