Big A is heading off to her first homecoming dance tonight. Dress shopping last week I had to stand in the back of her, biting my lips, trying to think of the funniest moments that I've ever had and yet, again, more moments that I couldn't recall.
All I could remember was the first dress that I put on her the day I brought her home from the hospital. A day that she fit within my arms, a day that she had baby fat and dimpled thighs and the most precious feet and toes.
"You'll have to give me a break today, kiddo," I said. "The very first time I held your toes was through my skin, right here. You were kicking so hard and I actually grabbed your foot." It was surreal, I told her. And somehow, not as surreal as that moment with her sitting beside me in the passenger seat, not safely secured behind me in her car seat, where, when I look just right, I can still see her, tiny feet and all.
I don't remember my mom crying when I went to my first dances. I look about and I don't see many other mothers crying on the first day of school or at the graduation ceremonies we've had along the way to high school and I wonder what went wrong inside of me; I remember always wondering that...why I would cry so easily, whether at something sad or beautiful or happy, or all of those things. I thought one day I would have the answer and rather the answer seems farther and farther away.
It's rocky, the waters that Big A and I travel, and I am always grateful for the lulls in the winds where the boat can rock gently, as I once rocked her over and over and over until one day I didn't.
There was nothing special about that day, no warning, no hint; just one day, boom, it hit me as I was washing the dishes, "I didn't rock Big A yesterday."
I remember the plate I was washing at that moment. It had a blue flowered pattern around the outside of it and a single leaf at the very center of it. I remember scrubbing and scrubbing and scrubbing until there was a little part of the leaf gone. I remember thinking, "There. Now you know how it feels to have a part of you missing."
I am blinded and dumbfounded by her. I tell her all the time how amazing I think she is. Sometimes she looks up at me and murmurs a thank you, sometimes she nods. I don't know how to make sure she understands what she is to me. I don't know that there are words for that.
"It's like when you were born, a little knife was placed inside of my heart," I said as I grasped her hand, "and each moment that you grow, each time that I look at you, it twists a little more." She doesn't know. How could she know? I didn't know, which is, I suppose, why I keep wanting to make her understand.
It's that today, somehow, the baby that slept upon my chest so soundly just a moment ago is heading off to her first big high school event.
I turned my head, just for a moment, and boom......