One evening in the not-so-distant past, I picked up the phone and called my mom.
"Okay, I have a weird question for you."
Having been my mom for 32 years, she's used to that sort of lead-in, and she told me to go ahead and ask.
"Do you think Em loves me?"
I had a reason for asking. I'd just picked my girl up at the babysitter, and I got the sense when I walked in the door that she would've been just fine staying there. Possibly forever. She was far from upset to go with me, but I had to bribe her with promises of supper to interest her enough to abandon her play.
When her dad comes to pick her up, she practically vibrates with joy. When grandma visits, I wonder if it's possible for a smile to actually split someone's face open. When it's me -- eh. She takes my hand and traipses alongside, but there's no joyous vibration, no wow-your-cheeks-must-hurt smile.
It makes sense. I'm always with her. She starts and ends her days with me; she knows I'm going to be there. There's no surprise when I show up. I am constant, I am boring, I am Mom.
Oh, but today. Today, she had a hearing test, so I picked her up instead of the babysitter. And I picked her up early. When her therapist led her out to the lobby and said, "Emma! Who's here?" she took half a second to gape at me, and then --
And my girl galloped across the room to me and flung herself into my arms, beaming that sunshine smile of hers. Her therapist reminded her to get her backpack, so she obligingly headed down the hall to her cubby. Halfway there, she turned back, making sure I was still there. When she saw that I was, she grinned. She bounced. She absolutely wiggled with delight.
The backpack retrieved, she darted back to my side and took my hand. I was ready to prompt her, but she stole the word from my mouth, tugging me forward to the door.
"Bye!" she said loudly, clearly impatient to get her farewells done so we could just LEAVE, ALREADY.
The center's staff was laughing at her exuberance, but I was just soaking it in. As if she knew exactly how much I needed that boost today, she met me with that gorgeous smile and a hug. A real hug -- not her usual, which is her backing into your arms so you can embrace her without reciprocation.
It was some kind of wonderful. No, she is.
"I can't remember all the times I tried to tell myself / To hold onto these moments as they pass"