If you know me well - or at all, really - you know about my affinity for words. Turning a phrase for a project at work, attempting to wipe the floor with you in Scrabble ... I like words.
Never more than when they come out of Emma's mouth, which they've been doing a lot more often lately. Doesn't that seem crazy? In the first two weeks since her ABA program started, she's been coming home and talking to me. She repeats more. She requests more. She talked to Grandma on the phone instead of just smiling at her picture.
And Saturday morning, she grabbed a DVD case and turned to me.
She was holding up 101 Dalmatians.
I'd been awake for more than a day at that point, so it took me a minute to find my own words and tell her "Yes, yes, yes, of course you can watch puppies. You can watch puppies all day long if you keep talking to me."
"Want bread." I handed her a piece, hoping for the next step. She frowned, handed it back to me, and walked into the pantry to grab the peanut butter. She shoved the jar into my free hand. "Want sammich." Maybe you can imagine the silly victory dance I did. Use your words, baby, and I will make all the sammiches you want.
"Go in the car." It is no hardship to invent a quick errand so I can let her know I understand what she's saying to me. That her words have power.
It's progress; it's measurable, visible progress, and watching it happen is such a thrill. I worked hard to get her here, and now she's the one doing all the work.
I have loved her fiercely since before she was born. I believed in her potential before her diagnosis, and I've continued to believe in it since. But I can't remember the last time I felt so much hope, so sure that some of the things I want so desperately for her are reachable now.
These steps forward may not always be so big, and loving Em has taught me about the inevitability of the in-betweens, when progress stalls or even vanishes. I know my girl, though, and she never stops trying.
Right now I'm listening to her sing herself to sleep, and I could not invent a sweeter way for her to remind me that what I say matters.
"Yes, Jesus wuv me. Yes, Jesus wuv me. Yes, Jesus wuv me. Bible ... so!"
I love her words most of all.