Dear Lily June,
If, by the time you can read these, I’m not saying it often enough or with nearly enough gratitude, you, my darling dear, reinvigorate my life. I’m reminded of this in the simplest of ways, during what might seem to be the most basic activities. Like looking at the rain.
Over the weekend, it was pouring, as they say, canines and felines. You were sitting in your high chair facing a window, when suddenly you stopped eating and started pointing. You were watching, with your eyes like plates heaped full of wonder, as the rain came down. It took me awhile to take the hint (your mother is still learning), but I finally relinquished your spoon, turned my chair around in the direction you were facing, and watched with you.
And seeing the rain–so infrequent recently–through your eyes was like seeing it for one of the first times. It made my near-swim in to work this morning worth it. It made standing outside to run an errand while the drops kept dripping into puddles magical.
I was riveted by how each small drop sent a ripple echoing into the next, echoing into the next. How water can be naturally (oh, Louisiana, my heart is with you) or unnaturally (you, too, Flint, Michigan!) destructive, and yet, we need it to survive. How our bodies are indeed made up of 50-65% of water, so that, in standing in the rain, you almost feel some tide pulling inside of you.
How there is almost nothing more refreshing after a hard day’s work (or play) than standing in the water of a shower, its warm rain restoring what pains you…
When you’re in the midst of a mental health low, personal hygiene is one of the first things to go out the window. I spent many years before I knew you deeply depressed, and thus gained the personal grooming habits of the Peanut, Pig-Pen. I find myself sometimes still falling into these bad patterns, especially lately when I’ve had so much anxiety about a large Orientation event coming up this week at work.
I shower less, stay up later sweating more (literally and figuratively), don’t brush my hair or teeth before bedtime, then cling to the last vestiges of sleep in the morning, not making the time to get up and get myself properly ready before work. Don’t rinse, repeat.
And yet, you treat each bathtime like a treat. You splash your wings wildly like a duck skimming over the surface of a lake. You’ve learned, lately, to make your plastic fish and rubber duckies dive under the water as if they were really swimming. You try, with your little fingers, to pinch at the tiny tornado made by the bath water as it spins away, down the drain.
If I could capture some semblance of that joy in the shower, I might never leave. Perhaps it is time your thirty-one-year old mother borrows a rubber ducky to sit with me while I get myself scrubbed and shaven…
Lately, you have been wow’ing your father and I with your level of comprehension. When I started weeping over a drama I was watching (such is my relatively fragile state lately), you toddled over and started crying beside me. It shocked me so much that I stopped, and you reached your adorably chubby fingers up to brush the tears from my cheek.
A co-worker, when I told her the story, asked where you might have seen this behavior to model, but try as I might, I came up empty. I stroke your hair as you fall asleep, but you tend, when you do now, to cry more like the Tasmanian Devil on caffeine, and thus, it’s a little hard, unless we’re rocking in a chair, to physically comfort you. You flailed your leg so hard the other day, your toenail split your father’s lip (though in all fairness, that was a–literally–knee jerk reaction to him tickling you with belly kisses).
So I couldn’t think of whether this tear-wiping thing was something I taught to you, or some kindness you carry in you instinctually, like when your smile lights up like a jack-o-lantern’s as you finish eating and you begin to cheerily share your Cheerios with me, one at a time, placing them directly between my teeth. You share your toys, too, bringing them to us over and over like you were a golden retriever instead of what you are: part baby, part angel.
You point to a light as we enter a room so we’ll turn it on; you can find things we name, or show us where you’re hurting. Like this morning, when your dad asked you why you were crying, and you pointed into your mouth, right where you have a new molar emerging.
And teeth are the reason I wanted to write this post in the first place, Lily June, because lately yours have been shining. Of all your impressive feats of comprehension, I think I most love our new bedtime routine, when, after feeding you a bedtime snack, I announce it’s “time to brush our teeth,” and you practically leap off my lap to shamble off, fast as a zombie on speed, to the bathroom.
Once I catch up with you, I get down on my knees with your toothbrush and scrub all eight of your teeth clean, during which you smile like a model in a magazine. You seem to love this tiny little habit, of all the ones we share, most of all, and even when I finish with your mouth, you wait patiently watching as I run my electric brush over my own gums and teeth. You giggle as its bristles spin, and sometimes you try to catch the bubbling overflow of lather as it dribbles down my chin.
You treat each small moment, from watching weather through a window, to getting your teeth cleaned, like life is raining blessings upon you. I have a lot to learn from your joy and wonder with experiencing the world, even as I take that same level of joy and wonder from watching you.
Wait for me, will you? Your trying-harder-again-to-fight-this-anxiety/depression-thing mother just needs to take a quick, restorative shower…
- By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50061858