(Lily does not have to bend over backwards for her mother’s approval or love)
Hello again from the Towers!
How is it that as adults we complicate the simplicity of love? I personally don’t think anyone can define love; we can only list its characteristics. We anticipate joy to be in the presence of one we love. If that is absent, that great killer of love–indifference–is soon to follow.
Laura Girardeau, a fellow Must-invite–oops!–MUSCOVITE!–writes of the unfettered joy of love shared with her elfin daughter, Lily. I know of what she speaks; I just got a skype from one of the loves of my life, my son Morgan, from Berlin. There is a great bumper-sticker: Money isn’t everything but it keeps the kids in touch. Morgan’s purpose in calling me from half-way around the world? Just to tell me he loves me. I think Laura is similarly blessed, and I hope that my Literati who are parents are equally fortunate.
The Last Number
By Laura Girardeau
They say we must give as parents without expecting in return, since children think only of themselves. But that’s only a rumor. My daughter’s first word was “Duboo” (Love you). The night before she was born, she spoke through amniotic oceans, “I want to be borned, Mama.”
At two, she recalled that time, “When I was in your tummy, it was cozy and your heart go boom-boom.” She’d grab my face and blurt, “You’re not Mama, You’re Laura!” acknowledging my humanity separate from my role. Nursing, she’d ask politely, “Two please!” Later she figured out the math for more: “Four, please!”
She asks unabashedly for what she wants, but shows compassion akin to Ghandi. Once, I sighed as I left the room, and she ran to me in Minnie Mouse p.j.’s, further delaying my trip to the bathroom. She embraced my legs, cooing, “You’re being very patient. You’re my good sport.” Giving me back the words I give her every day. Finally, “Mama, you’re my special daughter.” I’m awed as by first snow.
At three, she was conservative with Santa, discerning wants and needs: “I really need a moose!” Prompted to ask for wants, she outlined career prospects, “I want to drive a bulldozer and I want to be an elf.” She woke easy to receive the enormous gift of a day. “It’s a day today!” she’d holler. This is how she prays. I wish I could be as good at it.
At four, she’d invite me into her ladybug tent, the thin walls a barrier between childhood and adulthood. She’d hand me her Etch a Sketch. “Stop what you’re doing and do some important work. Come. Play.” At five, she had love emergencies worthy of a cop visit. Skipping down the sidewalk, she’d scream, “I love you so much I can’t stand it! I love you with JOY! I love you WAY BAD!”
Love is not ineffable: describing it builds bonds. But in terms of numbers, it’s incalculable. At six, she loves me to the last number: “What’s after the last number? Because I love you more than that.” This is the math of life. “I love you a google, a billion percent.” She squints at the limits of language. Finally, she has it: “I love you more than Italy, Saturn, and cheetahs!” We have a contest: who can love the other more. We joke, “I love you more than you! I love you more than love!” The only ones that are impossible. “Heck the what?” she laughs.
So this is for you, Lily. I vow to get down on the rug and play mermaids till we’re old, even if I’m late to work. I love you more than fear. I love you much more than Italy, Saturn and cheetahs. But I’ll take you to Italy, read to you about cheetahs, see Saturn at the planetarium. And I love you as much as, but not more than words. Because with these words, we build that love.