Lighter than Air Love

Of all the pleasures my child has brought me, there is one especially endearing. Its passing will be the hardest to accept as she leaves the innocence of her childhood.

It isn’t the drama in her facial expression, like she wore the Christmas morning she awoke early. The sky was still moonlit. The dawn to come quickly was just another wish on her list. She crept lightly to my side of the bed, slithered under the covers and whispered, her eyes amplifying her breathless excitement, “Mom, maybe we’d better not go downstairs just yet. Santa may still be down there because it’s still dark outside.”

Happily I agreed it would be wise to wait. She curled into a little nest I made with my fetal position and arms. She dozed off quickly while I lay awake, relishing in her sweet innocence and the excitement yet to come under the tree.

Those big brown expressive eyes of hers — she’ll always have those.

It isn’t the exaggerated reality she lives in, where every minor frustration is a global crisis. Where broken cookies are completely unacceptable.

It’s not the unreal quality of her world, where the source of her laughter seems to come from a place known only to pixies and children. Where a gallop with me on our horses evokes peals of total delight that ring long after we’ve dismounted.

It’s not the way she understands numbers. Three hundred ninety one, one thousand, one million is an absolute quantity to her. It might be the number she associates with the hours it took to drive to grandma’s house, the distance between our house and theirs from the back seat of the car. Or it might be the way she explains how much she loves me. How much? Three hundred ninety one, one thousand, one million.

It’s not the raw honesty she lives in where every word has one meaning — except for “maybe” which can mean yes or no depending on how tired her folks are. Like the time while rocking her before bed when she asked me if we could go to the baby seed store. I thought she was referring to seeds for the flower beds.

I asked her what baby seed store she was talking about. “You know. Where you go to buy a baby seed to put in your belly so I can have a brother or sister.” Oh. That seed.

Later, after she was tucked in and the house was again quiet, I thought more about “that seed.” I realized she’d been in a pre-sex education discussion with her daycare provider who was then about seven months pregnant. Too large to ignore, it was time the growing belly was explained to the small inquiring minds of her adopted brood.

Not having been told where the seed came from, how it got inside her, my daughter figured it was like everything else in our house — bought at a store.

Her truth will no doubt broaden and hopefully she won’t see things as black and white, like frightened adults who are unwilling to see the beauty of gray. I have faith she’ll retain her honesty and seek it in others. I will teach her to love gray.

What I’ll miss most are the whispers.

Those lighter than air words that contain a power all their own. Those secret thoughts that are so special, so sacred, they are reserved for members of a select group — moms and dads included.

Whispers bond my daughter and me to a safe, magical place all our own.

In the middle of one night I went to her room after hearing her call for me. She had been coughing. I brought her a glass of water. She didn’t think it would help. She was right.

So, not knowing what else to do, I just lay beside her, holding her close, just waiting. Waiting for nothing or for my mind to clear a way to stop the tickle in her throat.

“What are you going to do?” she whispered between coughs.

“I don’t know,” I whispered back.

She expected me to know what to do — the big person with all the answers, all the power — her whisper communicating confidence in me.

I decided her cough required medicine. After swallowing a spoonful she snuggled close to me.

“That should help,” I whispered.

“Thank you, mom,” she whispered before she fell asleep.

Still in kindergarten, a half day of social activity, she doesn’t yet know the influence of peers. In another year, when her day is long and full of other children, I know she’ll begin to transfer some of our whispers to a girlfriend. And our whispers will begin to diminish as her friends become new members of the private club.

I will miss those airy confidences and the time when I was the best friend she had, most of all.

I know it will be years before she’ll realize I’ve always been her best friend. Maybe then she’ll remember all the pleasures we’ve known since her childhood and think of those whispers and weep for the loss of such blissful innocence — both of ours.

— Giselle M. Massi © 1988