In a few minutes, with tousled hair, an untucked tee, and a backpack and lunch pail in tow, Maya will step down from her pencil-yellow chariot to the stop where I kissed her goodbye, and we parted eight hours ago. Dressed in the ensemble she picked out herself, she will return to my care. I will solicit answers to questions and although she will eventually fill me in on scattered details from her day, others will slip away through the cracks when I'm not looking, like her first tooth.
I'm still getting used to these growing spaces between us.
I seized the opportunity to hold onto my little girl and to keep her close in the name of tradition this Thanksgiving. She reluctantly agreed to leave the family festivities early so we could go to our third Nutcracker in Seattle Friday night. It was magical.
We slumber partied, pedicured and painted our way through Saturday before Paul and Cole returned home. By Monday morning, after a week-long, fun-filled break from our routine, the spaces in our togetherness seemed small. Obsolete.
But under our roof last night, with our backs momentarily turned, Maya slipped from our grasp like one of the dishes I was washing. In a mad dash to cram as much as possible in the last ten minutes of wake before bed, Maya missed a step and tumbled head first and backwards down an entire flight of hardwood steps. Time moved aside, and my heart stood still.
"Mommy, I really hurt myself," she sobbed.
I was frozen, panicked and paralyzed, while Mommy scrambled down the stairs after her fallen daughter. She stepped in, and she knew what to do. She made sure my baby was okay and rocked her tenderly. She let Maya cry her tears of pain, fear and shock. She remained calm in the storm. She nurtured me too once the tears subsided and assured me that my daughter would be okay.
This morning, somewhere between upward and downward dog, Mommy let her guard down and the gravity of those stairs and the spaces in between hit my heart. I ached beneath the weight of my love for this child. The torrent of my own tears finally came.
This morning I wept both tears of gratitude and bitter tears of pain. I wept for yesterday and for tomorrow. I wept for my daughters, my mothers and my sisters. I also wept for every misunderstanding, misstep and mistake. I wept over beginnings, ends and the spaces in between, and I wept for the weight and the ache of this love. Oh, it is beautiful. It hurts, and it is hard.
Just a few days ago, while Maya and I roused from sweet dreams graced by Sugar Plum fairies, four Seattle officers were mercilessly gunned down. They kissed their families goodbye then slipped through the cracks when no one was looking.
This morning, as I wept in the space between my child and I, I wanted to hold her and keep her and never let her go. But then, through the ache and the sting of my tears, I watched my daughter ascend the stairs she had fallen down the night before. She donned a smart outfit of her own design, with disheveled hair she had already styled. In that space, she had also made her bed, packed her bag, and she was poised to face another day.
So we ran down the hill to the bus stop, my sugar plum princess and I. We heartily laughed our way down the hill as her chariot approached. I held Maya tight, kissed her goodbye and then let go. Just before the bus rounded the corner and pulled away, I saw her once more. She was still breathless and beaming.