Today she waved to me. I had one hand on the door and was ready to turn to leave. Briar was ensconced in the morning ritual of riling everyone up by running around her sitter’s coffee table. “Briar, please don’t run around Jen’s coffee table. Mason, please quit chasing Briar. Sophie, no running.” Jen said in her ever calm voice. Each day the three of them seem to take more delight in this odd little dance. I smile because I like the idea of running in circles and being happy with that. Seems like dogs should wag tails, cats should purr and kids should run in circles squealing.
Avery was in Jen’s arms. She looked happy, I smiled at Briar and said completely for show, “Briar, try not to get everyone riled up running around the table.” “Ok, Mama,” and then she saw the kids and her circling motor kicked into high gear. Turning to go out the door I looked over my shoulder at Avery. She was craning her neck to watch me. I smiled, she smiled back, I raised my hand in a faint wave and mouthed, “I love you.” She opened her mouth and waved back. She waved back. Oh, but I’d forgotten how much it hurts. How deep each milestone seems to pierce. A smile. A coo. A touch. A wave. My god, a wave. She can say goodbye.
My mom once told me that being a parent is one long goodbye. She is in California right now, a daughter trying to say goodbye to her dad. And today, my daughter waved goodbye to me. I cannot bear it.
I waved back to her. I grinned so wide I popped the tears that had been flirting with the corner of my eyes right out. They skittered, burning down my cheeks as I waved and tried to fill the room with a thousand I love you’s that would cushion and envelope her until I came back.
I muddled through my morning trying to focus on anything beyond the fact that my baby waved goodbye. The look in her eyes as she saw me register what she had done was so clear, 1 part I did it and 1 part you got it. She had thrown a pass and I caught it. I fought a lump in my throat as I reminded myself of my responsibility. She is devouring everything, watching us, listening to us and the watching some more. She is going to begin to repeat, to mimic and to do. My job is to celebrate and guide, support and encourage. I am to stand beside her and behind her while she finds her way, trying not to push and more importantly not to hold her back.
I realize that the wave is just a small step, but you need to understand, she took a step. No, seriously, she took a step. I picked her up at the sitter’s and we drove home. It was all sort of rushed as I tried to shepherd the girls into the house. Briar had taken off her boots, so I had to traverse the ice carrying both girls, my bag, my breast pump and the drawing Briar had done. Then I had to open the storm door, unlock the inside door and get us up the stairs. Another thing, I always have to pee when I pick them up, why I don’t handle this before hand I’ll never know. It’s a mad dash in the the house to decide whether to nurse first or pee first, both present huge leak risks. This is not even factoring in the life or death, must have it now demands for orange juice from Briar and the oppressive need from the animals for attention.
It’s no wonder I’d sort of stopped thinking about the wave. Briar was down for a nap and Avery was at my feet in the living room enjoying the heat of the fireplace while I worked on the computer. She was bouncing and babbling and occasionally attacking my leg in a full body and baby teeth bite-embrace. It was about as idyllic an afternoon as a telecommuting mom can have. I was typing away when something caught my eye, it was that fast reflex mom instinct that made me turn. I knew she wasn’t in danger, but something made me turn and scan. I was on full alert as I turned and watched her. What was it? Was she choking? No. Was she having a seizure? No, that’s ridiculous. So what the hell?
What the hell? She, oh my god is she walking? She. Oh no. Can she really be taking a step? Her dark head turned, her little chin rising up and jutting forward, her tongue peeking from the corner of her mouth and her eyes, how they danced. Her whole body shook and her legs teetered to and fro and then, she looked quickly down and back at me. One bare little pink paddle foot raised up and moved in what can only be described as a step. I fear what this signals, this day of a wave and a step. I’m not ready. I don’t want it be time yet. I want more clinging to my calf as she tries to stand, more burying her face in my neck because she hasn’t the words to tell me she loves me. I want it to be ok that I am ever so slightly sad that she is ready so soon.
Tonight I’ll go to sleep remembering how I got through the exqusite pain of Briar shedding the magical cloak of her baby self and exploding into the force she is now. Tomorrow I hope I’ll wake up ready to help Avery with her cloak, tonight I think I might just wrap myself in that cloak and drink in every last bit of its magic, committing to memory that when she took her first step it was toward me.