Seems just the other day that I sat by the window pining for autumn, now here it is, nipping at me with heavy rain and brisk winds, and a melancholy has set in. I think it is not the advent of autumn, but the rush of time it signals.
Briar is prancing about the house in underwear, the solid legs that used to poke from her diapers gone, in their place are limbs long and lean from running and dancing. The curve of her bottom is sharp and casts a shadow on taut hamstrings. I see the girl ahead, already here if I dare admit it, and yet the cotton princess underwear are a size too large, so they pucker and balloon around her form and I am reminded of how fragile and slight she still is. How can it be that just three years on this earth and I am mourning the passing of her youth? So many years are still ahead, and, in fact her nearness to the Briar of just a year ago is still palpable. It is almost as if she is a living dream, all of my hopes and fears wrapped up in a living, breathing flourish of pink and ringlets.
And Avery? Oh, my sweet petunia, so vibrant and hardy, open for all the loving and living you could ever imagine, but her petals whisper soft and her scent the whole of all my happiest moments. She is moving with the athleticism of a child much older, her words catch me by surprise, literally conversations, these words we share. She has risen above the cajoling and coaxing we were guilty of and forged her own beautiful relationship with her sister, both giving chase and taking breaks. What they have is so much better than anything we could have constructed. Such a bittersweet lesson, they really do surpass us, with their wisdom and strength, and of course their beauty. Physically Avery is sprinting as well, taller and slimmer each day, and each night the teeth make their ferocious march, pressing against her gums until she yelps and moans. I jump, perhaps a little too fast, to go to her. We reach for each other in the dark, and there in the embrace of her plush, squat reading chair, we find solace in one another.
I kiss her brow and stroke her back while she nurses, pausing every so often to raise her gaze to meet my own and whisper, “Back, Mama” and then she returns to suckling with a contented sigh, her eyes slipping down drunkenly. Some nights I hold on, enjoying the slower flow of time. Eventually sleep’s call is too great, and I lower her back into her crib, her arms immediately reaching for her babies, my own feeling a little less empty as she sleeps in her crib, still a baby.
The other morning as I walked with Briar down the stairs she stopped. Mild annoyance passed over me as she pulled back toward the top of the stairs. She scampered up to the landing and bent down to pick something up off the hardwood floor.
“What is it, baby?”
“Look, mama.” She said again as she walked over and pressed her face between the spindles of the banister. She stretched her hand toward me, little bits of dirt still under her nails from playing in the backyard.
“What’s that, sweetie?”
“Look, mama. It’s still a clover.”
And there in her hand I saw a clover, dried and curled from sitting in the sun since she’d brought it home from a walk a couple of days earlier. I looked up at her, she was backlit in sunlight streaming through an eastern facing window. Her shoulder poked out from beneath her Cinderella nightgown and her legs were turned out in the universal squat reserved for three year old knees.
“Do you see, mama? Do you see it’s still a clover?” Her face was intense, my affirmative answer something that she seemed to be dying for. I looked at the clover again. It was slightly yellowed and brittle, but I could still see the clover, still hear the gentle snap as she picked it. Looking back at Briar I suddenly saw the answer I had so desperately been seeking myself.
She is still my baby, my sweet clover.
“Yes, baby, I see it. It really is still a clover.” I whispered.
“You want it, mama? You want my clover for you?” She asked leaping around to the stairs.
“Honey, I can’t think of anything I’d like more. Thank you.” I smiled as I took the hand she offered.
“I love you, mom.”