I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about my daughters these days. Not in these large sweeping grandiose ways about the depth of our relationship or how I came to be their mama, or how incredibly quickly the time has passed. I try not to get hung up on what they are learning from me and what they will carry with them that they learned under my roof and the cosmos that orchestrated it all to come to pass.
No. Lately I’ve been investing more mind and heart space to more bite-sized tidbits… things I can manage and process and appreciate in the immediate. The things that spark my senses and make me stop and pay attention. I marvel at the way the sun makes Cate’s hair look like it’s a golden crown, literally golden threads streaming down her back in this wild and reckless nest of soft hair. Or how Taylor’s deepening voice sounds more like a song when she talks about the things that she loves – Harry Potter books, science, and soccer. I pay attention to how it feels when Caitlyn takes my hand when we’re watching a movie. Her soft, no longer tiny hands that seek out mine automatically and the small smile that curls on the edges of her mouth when she feels me gently squeeze. Three times for “I love you,” Two times for “I need you” and one time for “I’m here.”
I could try write for days about their giggles but it would never say it all. Their rare moments of combined joy when their voices vault towards the heavens in a radiant expression of happiness shared between sisters. I don’t even know half the time what started it, but I wish it were a song I could play over and over. I suppose to me it actually is…
I don’t think so much about how I only have one and a half years left with Taylor before she goes off to college, but I do see the way her fingernails are growing again because she’s trying not to bite them and my ears immediately recognize the sound of her bites of cereal before she leaves in the morning when the house is quiet and still and the stool she’s sitting in sways side to side. The way it sounds in my ears when she tells me every night that she loves me or how she will lean her forehead against my shoulder when she’s tired and I can feel her physically exhale. I wonder how I’ll live without that.
I notice how there is always a tan line around her wrist where she keeps extra hair ties and when her cheeks flush pink, her eyes dart downwards with a curious smile on her lips as she whips her hair behind her ear when a cute boy walks by… I watched her roam the thank you card aisle for several minutes, picking up and putting down the cards, waiting for the perfect one because the words have to sound like something she would say. I hear her voice when she sings in the shower and I pass by the bathroom and I just lean against the door and listen. I listen with my eyes closed and my head against the wood grain. I want this time to stop… at least pause. I want to listen to the Hamilton soundtrack with her driving over a thousand miles across four states to visit her future home in college. I want to hear her talk about psychology and abstract art, travel and how much she loves Dystopian novels. She’s nothing short of perfection.
I try not to dwell on the fact that Cate is halfway through sixth grade, is over 5’2″ inches and wears juniors leggings and jeans. I instead try to think more about how every day she has more freckles dusting her cheeks and still hugs and kisses me every night before she goes to sleep. I lost count of her freckles the other day around the same time she lost her patience sitting still when we were on the couch after talking about her Spanish class and Instagram accounts about cats, It was then that she started doing handstands in the family room. I don’t stop myself from breathing in deeply the smell of her hair after taking a shower and how it feels when her damp hair slides through my fingers as I make braids for her before bed while she leans her whole weight against my legs while she plays on her phone. I try to pay attention to how far around my body her arms wind when she tangles up for a hug and how it feels to hear her breath and bubbling giggles when I try to pick her up every so often, even though she’s nearly 12. If I could, I would draw a portrait and capture how her little golden eyebrows furrow when she has a math question she doesn’t understand… I think it would hang in every museum. If I could I’d bottle the sound of when she tap, tap, taps her pencil before looking up at the ceiling, her eyebrows now raised in wonder…. then suddenly the answer arrives and she wiggles in her seat before jotting it down. I don’t know what gears turned or what lightbulb flickers, but I see the light when inspiration strikes and it warms me all the way through.
I don’t want to get lost in the big things when I am surrounded by so many little things. So many wonders that go rushing past my consciousness like an endlessly streaming live action drama that is my actual life unfolding one little miracle at a time. I want to remember the sound of their voices, their smells, their touch. I want to be able to picture what their features look like and how their eyes dance when they’re overjoyed… the matching flecks of blue that they both have that shine in the sunshine. The same flecks that are in my own eyes that will always remind me that they’re mine. How they both wiggle their toes in the grass and crinkle their noses in the sunshine… how they both throw their heads back when they laugh. How they both purse their lips and smirk to the right when they’re deep in thought or when they are about to say something sarcastic. I want to experience what each day is like with them in those glorious little details. I am completely, selfishly overjoyed getting to see and know these things about them. To get to be the one that bears witness to the miraculous to the mundane.
What a shame it would be if I didn’t see those things because I was worried about so many other things I can’t control. Like the time quickly passing…. and how when I look up it is as though another year has flown by and more gray hairs have sprouted. When I stay focused on the small, daily things time feels less urgent. It makes life feel more like sipping lemonade on a summer day… like I have all the time in the world. And in those moments I think I actually DO. I have all the time in the world, in their world in that moment. All of it. That is the sweetest time.
“In the end you won’t be known for the things you did, or what you built, or what you said. You won’t even be known for the love given or the hearts saved, because in the end you won’t be known. You won’t be asked, by a vast creator full of light: What did you do to be known? You WILL be asked: Did you know it, this place, this journey? What there is to know can’t be written. Something between the crispness of air and the glint in her eye and the texture of the orange peel. What you’ll want a thousand years from now is this: a memory that beats like a heart– a travel memory, of what it was to walk here, alive and warm and textured within. Sweet brightness, aliveness, take-me-now-ness that is life. You are here to pay attention. That is enough.”-Tara Mohr
Oh the enough. There will never be enough of the enough to be enough. But I will take everything that I can get. I will take every moment and remind myself often that the already stinging in my heart, the shocking jolt of awareness of how much has already passed by is actually a gift. It is the proof of the distance between where we are now from where we began. It is the sum of so many experiences we can only describe in fond smiles and warm thoughts. It is the promise of where we still have to go. When I let these moments of awareness overtake me, I can only summon simple thanks for the journey and the promise that I will never stop paying attention.