She runs towards me from the field, all legs now, not the toddling knees I remember like yesterday, so fondly and profoundly tangible. It’s been years, Liz. She’s grown up a bit since then, I remind myself, trying to adjust to her real-time age, not the one that’s stuck in my head like an annoying song on repeat. Instantly I am taken back by the sheer physicality of her; I know she’s going to nearly knock me over in her awkwardly charming way. The way only a six-year old colt can.
She is so sharply and starkly herself.
I think about this and all she has to teach me about life; which is mostly about the importance of being myself. It seems so basic, yet I didn’t come into who I fully am until much later in life, when I had her. It was Anna Quindlen who said that the thing about motherhood was that children “have done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity.” Yes. Exactly that. It strips you to the core of who you are, who you are meant to be.
She has taught me so many things, things I didn’t even know about myself. But what am I teaching her? I sometimes wonder. I’m not sure exactly; using the napkin that is rarely in her lap but for which her sleeve is frequently a replacement? Or, making sure she brushes all of her hair not just the unknotted parts?
Perhaps the wisdom I’ll impart on her relates to which shoes are appropriate for church and which are not, knowing that usually the inappropriate ones are the ones worn. A battle I frequently lose in an effort to get to church nearly on time and not swearing or sweating in the parking lot.
I eye her in the rearview mirror sometimes. Fighting and complaining all the way about the car seat and its intended restraint to keep her safe. She’s been riding in car seats since she was born but still can’t stand it. Sometimes I chuckle, sometimes I sigh, but mostly I look at her in awe and think that perhaps I am raising a wild animal trapped in a child’s body, all raw instinct and spirit. I keep wondering if her fight will hold, will keep as I hope it does. Meanwhile, praying the prayers that mothers pray – of her never changing and being herself always – and then prayers of her maybe just softening around the edges a bit so we can make it through the next several years more peacefully. Hoping in vain I’m not dulling the sharp edge of who she is. One a prayer of optimism, the other one laced with a heavy dose of guilt.
Was it not just last week that I brought her home, looked into her blurry, blue baby eyes and wondered who she would grow up to be? I’m still looking for clues. So much I know about her already: the way she wants to entertain us at bedtime instead of sleep, her favorite color, what she will and won’t wear, and what she wants for her birthday.
I know the deep things that she whispers in my ear, that when she swims she feels like a mermaid. I know so much – like the way her freckles move across her face; how movies with high emotion exhaust her. So much still remains elusive, even after being inside of me for nearly a year. So much remains a mystery – a familiar looking enigma that I know and love so dearly but do not understand completely.
One thing is certain: she is teaching me about how powerful it is to be yourself, as-is. Not hiding or a becoming a faded version of myself, like I’ve tended to do over the years, editing my size and my presence in my own life. But as the ocean does to the rocks, she’s extracted me to my very essence; removed the unnecessary to reveal who really I am and need to be. She’s my Michelangelo in a way; eliminating all that useless marble to carve out something beautiful. Perhaps my need to do my hair, along with some of the other self-care basics that I miss from my me-me-me twenties are in that pile of rubble. Motherhood has refined any superficial need down to just bare, basic necessity.
I glance up again at her running towards me as she continues her trajectory. Any minute those colt legs will wrap my own legs in a happy, elated, toppling embrace, demanding my full presence and attention. I brace for impact –– smiling and happy while trying to remain sturdy –– a packaged set of emotions I’ve developed since I’ve had her. And for that, and all the rest that comes along, I’m grateful.
Liz Rasley lives in Texas with her family where she writes and tries in vain to keep up with the laundry. Read more of her writing on the intersection of life, motherhood and yes, sometimes laundry, at deepfragilegrace.com.