Everyone has left the house now and I've finally been able to have myself a good cry-it-out. How did this happen? How did this baby of mine:
turn into thisfirst-grader on her wa to the first day of school?
How did she get so big and grown up? And how did it happen so quickly? It just doesn't seem right. There are so many things I remember: the first time I saw her face, how she used to stretch when she was just waking up with her little fists balled up next to her face, how her little head smelled, her kicking her legs wildly and giggling while I tried to change her diaper, crawling after Missy and burying her little face in poor, patient Missy's fur, the first time I tried to feed her oatmeal and how it ended up all over the couch and ceiling, laying on the couch with her sleeping against my chest, how she used to tangle her fingers in my hair while she was falling asleep at night...
When Viola was a baby I was terrified of everything. I'd never loved anyone as much before. I used to lie in bed with Dean and watch him sleep and think I'd die if anything ever happened to him. I thought that love was pretty big. I had no idea, though, until Viola was born. I went through a phase of opening, of recognition, when she was new. At first I couldn't believe she was mine. She seemed more alien to me than she had when she was this squirming thing making my abdomen contort and distend. Her tiny fingernails were like rice paper, that soft divot in the top of her head, her searching mouth.. it was all so small and fragile. It was a little like discovering the inside of a perfect minianature doll house- ah, but she was real and no doll! And how wonderful to be so new, not a mark, not a blemish on her both literally and figuratively- skin that had never seen the sun, knees that had never been scraped, eyes that had never seen direct light. Somewhere in the miracle and wonder of discovering her was when the terror struck me. She was a whole other being, so much more than me with all her potential laid out before her like a brilliant, unending white ribbon, and completely reliant on me. The world came into sharp focus then. I would begin to rediscover both myself and my world through her, but I also became aware of every danger and every hurt-- all those things we work so hard to blunt and dull so as to get through our days.
That awareness is still with me. Someone has described having a child as a piece of your heart walking around outside of your body. Things change. I've learned to blunt and dull the waves of terror in order to get through my days. Every now and then- when I hear one of the girls start wailing from another part of the house, when suddenly I notice one of them is missing, sitting next to Viola in the night while she struggles with her asthma- it raises it's head. Everything in me is designed, I believe by nature or by God, to want to protect them, save them the pain of their injuries and illnesses, the hurt of rejection or frustration. But I know, too, that it is an impossible task. And that makes days like today bittersweet.
This morning we went out for waffles to celebrate the first day of school and she sat next to me in the booth and ordered her breakfast. She was so excited and grown-up. I noticed particularly how tall she's grown, how her hair is getting longer again, how her backpack doesn't seem quite too big for her anymore. When we got to school she made a beeline for her classroom, waved goodbye and barely looked back. She has her own desk for the first time with her nametag across the top. She sat up tall in her seat with her legs tucked under her little chair, crossed at the ankles. Their first task of the day was to go back outside and practice lining up straight to walk into class.
And so it begins with the being good and lining up straight, hair and teeth brushed, ankles crossed. I long for her to fit in and to have friends, to learn what she's taught, to find her place in line. I long, too, for her to run and jump and be wild and laugh and yell and dig for worms and not care a damn what anyone thinks. What a world... What she has ahead of her... What she is and what she will become... Ah, if only I could put into words all that I hope for her and if only she could know how much I love her and wear it like a shield into the world to protect her from all the things I fear for her and if only the world knew, like I do, what greatness lies there in her...but all I can do is wax sentimental, cry a little and just keep on hoping that this all turns out how it is meant to.