She was sitting at the island in the kitchen, the speckled teal formica* even with her collar bone, a sandwich and juice in front of her, a sister on each side. She had called for my attention and so I put the bread knife down and said, “What is it sweetie?” and she looked at me quietly. I smiled, she paused a beat, then smiled. I smiled bigger and her eyes twinkled back at me, this game of prolonging the moment spent with my undivided attention is something she is masterful at and it gets me every time. Any frustration or anxiety is boxed out by my delight in her delight.
“What did you do?” I ask with a sing-song lilt to my voice that makes us all smile.
“I just was gonna cry and then I thought and made myself not cry so I could do this,” and she smiled at me. Her eyes wrinkled until they were almost closed, her cheeks climbed high on her face and her chin jutted out like mine, she punctuated the whole thing by thrusting an arm forward and signaling an emphatic thumbs up.
“Wow, honey. That’s incredible.” She nodded and I tried not confuse her by crying myself. Her tears, when they come, are generally very real and pretty well justified. They also break me. I hadn’t imagined that her ability and decision to halt them would slice even deeper. She continued beaming at me, one side of her mouth turning down ever so slightly as if unable to completely shake the urge to cry.
“I think I could do that too, ” I said softly. “Do what?” she asked, having established about a week ago when my eyes welled up beyond my ability to control that, “grown ups cant cry, mama. They can’t.” When I asked why she had looked at me solemnly with a wrinkly, worried chin, “because they keep us kids from crying. They ‘tect us from hurting.” I remember nodding thinking, “Every chance we get, my heart. Every chance we get.”
“I think i could keep myself from getting frustrated sometimes.” I nodded as she watched, fear tickling at my throat as I painted myself into a corner that i wanted to be able to live up to, “I think if you can stop yourself from crying then I can find a way to not get upset when I get frustrated about things. I really think I can do it, I know that I want to.” The enormity of what I’d said echoed.
“I know you can, mama. Know why?” she waited for my response. I raised my eyebrows, “‘Cause you are ‘mazing and braver than you know.”
Pretty sure something hit me in the gut, not sure what it was, but I saw my reflection in the pure blue of her eyes and I made a vow to try and be ‘mazing. Because really, shouldn’t we always shoot for some level of it, even if we just end up hitting great?
Seems like a worthy gamble.
*Mark my words, you’ll be seeing a post in less than 12 months about Sean yanking the splitting formica from the counters and sparking the first bona fide home improvement project of the yellow house.