It's amazing what that word can do to someone. To me. To my poor husband. His dreams & hopes ripped to shreds by one simple word. No.
We had been waiting for the publishing house, known as Covenant Books, to tell us whether or not they were going to publish my book. Dan was so hopeful, especially since I had sat down with the Chief Editor months ago and she was extremely interested and optimistic. She urged me to submit it as soon as possible, and we did.
But just like a hopeful, thirsty desert flower stretching up toward a cloudy sky, it was in vain. No awesome word came, no good news followed by tears of joy. Just a polite, simple paragraph. And a resounding simple word. No.
I called Dan, hoping he wouldn't think I was joking when I told him my manuscript was rejected. He was sad. I was sad, too, but I knew this was coming. I just knew. Dan remained optimistic the whole time, since February, when we submitted it. He had high hopes, which helped me have high hopes.
But I always had a bad feeling. I just didn't have the heart to tell Dan.
So, here we are. Dan is sitting at his desk at work, and I'm staring at a computer screen. I'm sure he's got his head in his hands, and I'm positive he's going over the bad news, wondering what to do next. Poor Dan. I think he's more bummed than I am. And I'm sure in twenty minutes I'll forget all about the bad news, as I change diapers & try to make it through lunch without two toddlers killing each other over who gets the Sponge-Bob chair and better sippy cup.
Someday it will happen for us, I know it. Until then, I'll greet my sweet husband at the door when he gets home, wrap my arms around him and tell him not to be too sad. After all, this is what life is all about. This is what the Lord intended us to do. Live, have heartache, learn from it, move on. Even fall down on our faces.
And I guess this is my turn to fall.
I'm actually quite happy. And proud.
I'm proud I wrote a book. I'm proud I have a family. I'm proud of my beautiful kids.
But mostly I'm proud of my awesome husband.
Who loves me.
Who believes in me.
And who is sad for me, when it is my turn to fall ❤❤❤.
I must've looked insane.
It was a HUGE crowd, and all I could do was weave in and out of it, sobbing and screaming my daughters name frantically.
Yep, I must've looked insane. And in that sixty seconds, which seemed like a million.....I think I actually was.
We were at a Realtor picnic party, where they had set up jumping castles and clowns, rock climbing and face painting, all for our little ones. They had food and treats, and cotton candy. Everything kids dream of. All free. And as much as they wanted. Hundreds of people showed up with their families to enjoy the carefree Saturday afternoon.
Dan and I were watching Emma jump happily in one of the castles. Rowie was munching on cotton candy in his stroller, smiling and grunting at anything walking by. And my sweet husband was slurping down a snow cone. A little girl had fallen while jumping, so I told Dan to watch the kids while I followed her to make sure she made it safely to her family. When I came back, Dan and Rowen were there, but Emma was not. I looked in the castle, but she was gone. "Dan, she's not here". I looked in the other castle just a few feet away, and I didn't see her there either.
Now, several things can happen at this point. For a NORMAL person. They (a) stay calm & look for their child, or (b) retrace steps and call people for help. For a crazy person, there is only one thing to do.
And you can imagine which category I fall into.
So there I was sobbing, my face in my hands, screaming Emma's name. People were staring at me, and I remember wondering how crazy I looked to them. And then a man appeared before me, took my shoulder, and said "I know what she looks like, I'll go look for her". I realized he was the man in charge of the castle she'd disappeared from. I nodded, literally feeling myself slipping into shock. I've never felt that before...it was horrible.
It's amazing the things you remember in a moment like this. I remember my body shaking uncontrollably, my mind whirling endlessly, and a feeling of complete and utter fear settling quickly in my gut. I looked at the faces staring at me and I wondered how everyone could be so calm.
But what I remember the most, as I searched through the crowd, was thinking Emma is not safe. Have you ever had that moment as a parent? It was the scariest moment of my life. I thought to myself, tonight my three year old is going to be alone. And if she was taken, who took her? What monster would she be facing tonight? And the saddest thought- she is going to grow up always wondering why her mother left her. I almost couldn't breathe.
I lost her.
I don't remember many details between the time I lost my insanity to the time I saw Emma again, but I do remember at one point spotting my husband trying to call someone on his phone. I held my breath, hoping he was trying to call me to tell me she was found. It wasn't until he looked up & saw me & signaled me over that I could breathe again. As we made eye contact I instantly knew Emma was found. His expression spoke volumes.
I rushed to him, asking frantically where she was. He pointed to the second castle (yes, I did check it, but obviously she is the world's greatest hider), and indeed, there she was.
Jumping and sliding to her heart's content.
I hugged Dan, who seemed way too calm for my taste, and left to find the guy who was still looking for our daughter. But not before I shook my husband about twelve times and made him vow he wouldn't take his eyes off her this time.
Through the crowd I found the stranger and thanked him, hugging him tight. I know he was just a guy, a bystander, a man I will never see again. But I have to say that the love I felt for him was overwhelming. I cried as I thanked him for the fifth time and he humbly smiled and told me not to worry about it.
I'll always be grateful for him.
Later, as Dan and I stood watching our daughter having the time of her life, I realized something. We were lucky. There are hundreds of parents who lose their children and never find them. Our Emma was safe. She was unharmed, and completely unaware of what had just happened. I don't think anything could have brought me down in that moment. And that night you better believe I hugged her a million times and kissed her until she scrunched her face. And I just kept thanking Heavenly Father. Over and over and over again.
I hadn't lost her after all.
But boy, I'll never forget the pain I felt when I thought I had.
And although that scary day is a bit of a distant thought now, I'm still reminded how blessed we are- every time she hugs me tight and kisses my cheek. I'm reminded when I hear her laughing in the background. I'm reminded when I hear her little feet coming down the hallway.
And oh, how I love those reminders.
Oh, and in case you were wondering what my sweet husband was doing when he temporarily "lost" our daughter......I asked him the same thing. "I was looking up something really important on my phone," he told me.
"Oh yeah?" I asked. "What was that?"
"How to get rid of ice cream headaches," he said.
"That snow cone was really cold!"
It's our cemetery. Our "special cruising place", as we call it. The huge and very beautiful cemetery near our home. We frequently drive through it really slow and I let the kids look out and see the colorful flowers, the plastic decorations stuck in the ground that spin when the wind blows, and the American flags placed on Military headstones. And yesterday, she finally talked me into letting her get out. "Are we going to investigate?!" she asked so excitedly. She was so happy at the thought, that I could NOT turn her down. So I promised in the morning we could go and she'd actually be able to get out and "investigate".
I was really nervous about letting her get out of the car. Not because cemeteries are supposed to be spooky and creepy. But because I didn't want her to run around like a crazed maniac child, kicking headstones over and yelling and pulling out the cute balloons placed near the graves that read "Happy Birthday" to the deceased. Especially the green ones. Her favorite color.
I could see it ending quickly, full of tears and angry looks from the back seat.
So there we were, Rowen in the stroller, brave mommy watching a very excited Emma jump out of the car. I cringed. She took off, no, she ran. Like a gazelle running for it's life from a cheetah. From one headstone to another, calling out colors and shapes and pointing at flags and beautiful statues. I was wondering if this was seriously a bad idea. And it must've looked like I had no control over my child.
Then something happened.
She wasn't a crazed child. She wasn't running around messing up graves, destroying hallowed ground, or kicking headstones.
She was fixing their flowers.
As I watched my little girl run to each grave whose flowers had been carelessly knocked over or tossed aside from the wind, I realized what I was witnessing. A little girl, servicing others. She wasn't seeking thanks or a choir of angels singing her praise. She definitely wasn't going to get that from those she was eagerly helping. And she knew that. That isn't why she was doing it. My eyes were not dry as I watched her bending and replacing each flower. She'd dust them off, tell me how beautiful they were, and then I'd tell her the name of the person on the headstone.
I told her I was sure they appreciated her.
The rest of the time there at our special cruising place was almost magical, and sweet. We watched a woman visit a grave and place a flower on it. And then we watched as she softly kissed the headstone. We looked at the pictures of the deceased, etched permanently on certain stones.
When it was time to leave she didn't cry. She didn't complain. She pointed out the window and urged me to stop so she could fix the flowers on someone's grave that we had missed. And when I kept driving she seemed sincerely sad.
I underestimated her. I saw her heart today, and I saw her love. I saw Emma, in all her perfect glory.
I know they say we aren't held accountable until we are a certain age. But I know it was written in the book today, somewhere high in the Heaven's. A little girl with blonde hair and blue eyes...full of compassion...stopped to fix someone's flowers.
I'm sure to someone watching nearby, she was just a silly girl, living in her silly little world.
But to those whose names were engraved on those headstones......it was priceless.
The memories come back to me swift and real, as if I were back there again. As a little girl.
Any time we pass a river or a lake, or anytime someone mentions bass fishin' or trout. Even the smell of a campfire sends waves of childlike bliss and peace through my body.
And I remember my dad.
My father is a great fisherman, the best I've ever seen. He knows how to cast a line and perfectly bait an Eagle Claw hook, size 8. He holds the pole and maneuvers the rod so elegantly you'd think he played piano. He has seen thousands of fish go in and out of his boat, and seems to remember every time he's lost a "big one" to the waters beneath him.
I remember sitting quietly near my father as we trolled through the water, our poles set defiantly in our hands. I would watch skiers speed past our boat, or hear music blaring from a nearby house boat, and I never envied them for the fun they were having. I never wanted to be part of what they were doing. I wanted to be next to my father, pole in hand, listening to the midnight waves flapping against the side of the boat. I wondered what those people were thinking. I wondered why they wouldn't rather be bass fishin'. I was where I wanted to be. And it was the most peaceful feeling I've ever felt. Learning from my father, as he learned from his. I can definitely tell you I enjoyed those moments much more than he did. And much more than he will ever know.
During those camping trips, he taught me to respect other fishermen. How to lower your voice to a hushed whisper so the fish won't get spooked. I remember looking out from my sleeping bag, two o'clock in the morning, and he was there on the shore, his line softly moving with the current. He'd have his cap on, and his hands in his pockets. I'd watch him as he fished in the dark while everyone slept. I sure love my daddy, I'd think to myself. Then I'd get my pole and join him. We'd sit in silence and watch the water ripple with bluegill bubbles, and I'd imagine I was in a fishing tournament on ESPN.
I wanted to be like him.
But things change, and people grow up. Parents get older and children have their own babies. We learn the best and worst from our parents and pass things on to our own kids. I watch Emma as she grips her own little fishing pole in her tiny hand. She happily hums the chorus to "Fishin' in the Dark" and rests all three feet of the pole into the water. Her daddy explains to her how to hold it correctly, but tiredness for a three year old comes quick, and a moment later we're lurching quickly to save the barbie pole from meeting a tragic end in the bottom of the lake.
We were there in the boat with my father, and he held Emma in his lap as he was reeling in a huge bass. He wanted to make this her very first catch. She held onto the pole with him, as they could see the bass coming angrily up to the surface. But in a moment, the fish was gone. My dad was so upset that she wasn't able to catch it. But Emma jumped up and grabbed her pole so quickly and started shouting, "I want to catch one! I want to catch a fish!"
I watched them as my mind replayed many a fishin' trips as a little girl. I wondered if my father would ever know how much it meant to me. I know Emma will have her own memories with her own father, and someday she'll look back and miss those little girl days. My heart ached as I remembered those precious moments with my father. You can't have beautiful childhood memories without growing up and feeling pain at what you've lost. What you remember to be the best time of your life. And what you secretly wish you could have all over again.
I guess that's just how it is.
So we packed it in, put the poles away, and headed to the dock. I could see Emma grinning, happy to be sitting on her Papa's lap, and Rowen sitting comfortably on Dan's lap, his tiny fingers wrapped around the steering wheel as Dan drove the boat through the cool blue water.
When it came time to leave the boat, my father asked if we wanted to stay longer. I wanted so badly to sit next to him. To hold our poles in silence and listen to water flapping against the boat. To spend just one more moment talking about how things were when he was a kid. Or listen to stories about his own childhood.
But alas, things are different now. Kids get tired and responsibility calls. So we gathered our two children in our arms and told them to hug their Papa and Grandma goodbye. They did, and we watched my parents drive away. I felt a longing in my heart and a deep love for a father that taught his daughter many things. And for memories that will never really go away.
And then I listened as Dan and Emma laughed and sang in the car as we drove home. She asked him silly questions and he laughed out loud. Her eyes beamed as she hung on every word her daddy said.
And I realized, in that very moment, she was making memories with her own father. And I knew she'd remember this moment forever. It was their moment. Their memory. And my heart filled with joy.
.....And I forgot that I was sad ❤.
"Daddy, fly me in the sky on my bicycle!"
And so he does.
She plants her 28 pounds on her bicycle seat and he lifts her up high in the sky and she pretends she's in an airplane, flying through the air on a cloudy day.
Have you ever had one of those moments where you really felt the tears coming to the surface, but you didn't want anyone to see it because it was over something so simple? That happened to me just now.
Emma loves her daddy more than I think she loves anything else in the world. And he can do anything from opening something sealed too tight, to taking her on the roof and drilling holes in it. He can do anything.
At least in Emma's mind.
I think about how that is going to change when she gets older and realizes that just isn't true. Right now he tells her stories of dragons and talking dogs. He takes her across the city to show a home to a client and then explains to her what a competitive market analysis is. They dance ridiculously in the living room while her little brother watches and grunts and points at them.
I think he believes in daddy, too.
It's amazing how a grown man can manage to pull himself from a world of serious decisions and financial responsibility, and visit a child's land of imagination and giggles. I love him a little more each time I see that bicycle flying through the air, with a little girl sitting atop, grinning and laughing and telling her daddy to "fly me again!"
I don't think it's just in Emma's mind. I find myself coming to my husband for little things, big things, weird things, silly things. And I really think I expect him to fix things. And when he is the problem, I feel lost because I can't possibly go to him for advice on how to fix my husband. And yet I find myself doing it anyway.
And he just laughs at me.
So here we are, in the living room. I'll watch them as they fly through the air, and I'll hold back the tears. The house will fill with laughter, and Rowen will waddle across the room to follow them as he grins and reaches for his daddy to fly him, too.
And I'll be grateful for this moment.
And for my husband.
And for the the love he feels for his children.
Below is the prologue that my husband wrote for the book that I just finished writing. We just submitted the manuscript to the Editor this morning, yay!!! But we left out the prologue. I wanted to share it with you guys, because I love Dan, and his writing is beautiful. And we thought it would be a great way to share with everyone the news that my book has been submitted for review.
"The writing of this book was something of a miracle, actually. Holidays are always a bit of a stressor for me. Finding a thoughtful gift we can afford that Bekka will actually like on the limited time I have can be pretty daunting. My main goal is to find the right gift as quickly as possible, buy it, wrap it, and take a nap.
Christmas 2012 was going to be a slam dunk. I had the perfect gift chosen – a sewing machine. It was thoughtful, useful, rather expensive, but affordable, and I knew she wanted one because she had mentioned it a few times before. But also a complete surprise, she would never suspect I’d spend so much. I took my time and researched it out, finally settling on a really nice Brother model. Even though I was getting a bit of a foreboding feeling about it, I had our friendly neighborhood Fry’s Electronics request one from another store. When that didn't work out, I finally ignored the feeling and Amazon.com’ed one. It arrived two days later, and I was elated! Well, for a little while. Unfortunately, that pesky foreboding feeling returned, only stronger. I reasoned with myself, “How could this be wrong? It’s a practical gift, we have the money, and it could easily pay for itself with a little hard work.” That worked! For a little while. Alas, the wrong feeling would soon return, and actually got even stronger. “Dangit! This is a good gift, I want my nap!” I thought. It got so bad that I couldn't even go in the room where the blasted machine was hidden without being nearly overcome by the unpleasant feeling.
I have learned a few things in the course of my life. One of them is that when an inspiration like this comes, follow it. So, finally, with a heavy of soul, I took the box, the beautiful box with that amazing, beloved piece of gift-estry, set it in the middle of the room in front of Becky, and lifted the cover. We sat there watching it for a while, bidding it farewell. Dadgumit, it didn’t make any sense! With sad hearts, we put it in the back of the bedroom, and I emailed Amazon.com. I actually didn’t send it back until after Christmas, hoping for a miracle, or that the Lord would change his mind (I knew better than to ask Him for that though, we all know where that leads you). I finally let go of the final vestiges of hope, and sent it back. Sigh.
Meantime, I was in a real pickle – only a couple weeks till the big day, and I had nuttin’. Then one day I was surfin’ the Net for ideas on how to publish a book I had written a decade earlier (a profound work of amazing wit and incredible insight entitled “The Smalton Crisis: the Minority Who Cried Racism”, look for it in bookstores any year now), when it happened. The miracle. A certain blog suggested that I attend writers’ conferences. So I Googled “Phoenix Writers’ Conferences.” The very first result was for ANWA – the American Night Writers Association. It was a group exclusively for aspiring LDS women writers. I immediately realized that Becky was an aspiring LDS woman writer! And their upcoming writers’ conference cost less than the sewing machine! Now, her birthday conveniently occurs three days before Christmas, and so I also got her a yearly membership to ANWA and made that her birthday present!!! Shazam! I think a light actually shone thru the roof and a celestial choir sang a chord of triumph. I ordered the membership, signed Rebbecca up for the conference, went to my room and took a nap.
Christmas morning arrived, and as luck (our luck) would have it, Bek was sicker than a dog. She nearly-patiently went thru the intricate obstacle course I had designed for her, and finally got to the present under the tree: a wireless keyboard with the word “Press Me” taped to the Enter key. She pressed it, and I will pretend that the conference registration came out of the printer like it was supposed to. Anyway, she looked at it for a long time. “You actually paid extra for a pitch session?” she asked. She continued to stare at the sheet of paper, and I turned off the camera I was using to record the moment with. She then looked up and said, “You actually paid extra money for me to pitch my work…” and then something amazing and totally unexpected occurred. She began to cry. She sat there, looking at that paper, crying in a way I have never known her to cry…. “that means you really do believe in my writing!”
So, as we see it, had I not received that remarkable inspiration to do that which I absolutely did not want to do, and then, (against my deepest desire) followed it, I doubt that Becky would have made the decision to actually put her writings together in book form. So, whatever success this (and subsequent???) books may have, we shall always remember Him to whom we really owe our success.
I have always looked at Rowen’s growing up as this fascinating, almost historic thing- something that will be cherished by me forever. Let me explain…
When he was in the NICU, all I wanted was to tell him how much I loved him. All I wanted was to reach through the glass incubator and caress his little face and tell him it wasn't supposed to be like this. That this wasn't what I wanted for him. I felt so disconnected to him sometimes, that all I longed for was the moment he was old enough to understand that I loved him. I couldn't wait for him to be three, so I could pull him into my arms and tell him how many nights I waited for him to come home. How I missed him so much when we were apart. And how I felt empty when I left the hospital without him. So for me, when I looked through the glass at him (I wasn't allowed to hold him that first week), I just longed for him to know that.
So now, he is a bit older, much more healthy, and is beginning to understand things. I took a shot in the dark and told him to take a drink of his water, which was sitting next to him. He looked down and picked it up and drank it. I couldn't believe it. The next day we were listening to music and I asked him if he could dance. He instantly started dancing. I tell him to wave hello and goodbye and he happily does it. There are other things, too. I know at this age, they do these things, and I know it’s normal. But it isn't normal to me. It’s just a step closer to the day I am able to pull him close and tell him he was the most important person in my life during those few weeks he was born. I remember it so clearly- it was as if you’d been waiting in line for three days to meet your favorite movie star, the one you've loved your whole life. And you've anticipated this moment for a long time. This really important person. Well, I looked at Rowen like this. When he was hooked up to a million tubes, and had a machine breathing for him, and he couldn't be touched or caressed or soothed. He looked completely alone. I remember trying to touch him once, and he winced in pain. They warned me that would happen, but as his little body pulled away from my touch, my heart broke. I actually wondered in that moment if he would ever allow me to touch him. If he would ever be okay with cuddles and kisses and snuggling and butterfly kisses on his cheek. I wondered all of that. I feared he wouldn't. And THAT is why when he buries his face in my neck and softly falls asleep, I adore it. That is why when he pats me on my shoulder as I hold him close, I cherish it. Or when he is sad and crying, and I walk into the room, and he lifts his arms high, tears streaming down his face, as if he’s begging me to hold him tight, I do it.
Every time he understands me, I'm elated. Every time he says "mama", I want to cry. Or when he hugs me with his little arms and clings to me tightly, I seriously think my heart might explode. Someday I may take these little things for granted. But not yet.
I tell him I love him every chance I get, and I hug him tight every chance I get. You’d never know he had a hard time with touch. He loves it now. He lives for those moments when daddy gives in and walks him back and forth late at night when Rowen can’t sleep. He rests his little head on his daddy’s shoulder and closes his eyes. I sometimes will find them, in the middle of the night, both asleep in the rocking chair. It’s one of the most amazing things I've ever seen.
Little Rowen. How I love him. I'll forever tell him so. I'll forever look for excuses to pull him close. To hold him for just one second before he pulls away to find some crazy, dangerous thing to get into.
I’ll never forget those nights I went to sleep without him.
But it's okay.
It makes me grateful now for the nights that I don't have to ❤❤❤.
“I give up”. She had thrown herself onto her back and was looking up at the ceiling. She had been complaining about something, and I was eagerly trying to finish something on the computer. So I’d really only listened to bits and pieces of her ranting. But when she suddenly grew quiet after mumbling something, I curiously knelt over her to find out. I touched her face and asked her what was wrong. “I give up”, she responded. She sighed and I had to laugh. I swear she looked like a sixteen year old girl who had just found out her best friend had gone out with her newest crush, and now she did not know what to do with her life.
It’s amazing how the smallest things can provoke such anger and irritation and frustration out of a child. For us, it’s when a check bounces, the car explodes, or someone breaks into our home and steals our television. For Emma, it’s because she can’t get a piece of cardboard to stand up. I wonder how our lives would be if we thought and felt and acted like little children. Of course, we’d be throwing adult tantrums and crying every forty-five minutes. But do you know what else we’d do?
We’d appreciate life.
Next time we ate an ice cream cone, we’d think it was the best thing we've ever tasted. When someone hands us a cheap two dollar gift, we’d treasure it as if it cost them the world. We’d not judge people by what they wear, or how they look. We’d also unfortunately be afraid more often, which means we’d lean on one another and be strong for one another. I mean, isn't that what I do for Emma? Am I not strong for her when she’s afraid? If we were like children, wouldn't we love each other more?
If I were like my Emma, I’d say “I give up” a lot. But if I were like my Emma, I’d also keep trying. And trying, and trying. Because she’s never had someone looking down on her, telling her she can’t. She’s never experienced real failure. Real heartache at someone turning their back and abandoning her. She’s still got hope. Hope in people, hope in animals, hope in herself, hope in life. A real, true hope that can’t be extinguished. The kind of hope that cannot die.
I think most of us have lost that kind somewhere along the way.
But she hasn't. And if we are good parents, she never really will. And although we try our best, inevitably, life will come, and it will hurt her, like it does everyone. It’s healthy, really. But when that happens, we can help her get back up. And we can tell her not to give up. I won’t ignore her little pleas for help like I did today. I won’t wait until she’s lying on her back, looking up at the ceiling, telling me that she’s given up. No. I hope I’m smart enough, kind enough, patient enough, to be the kind of person she can go to when her soul is sad, or her eyes are swollen from days of crying. Or when she really is about to give up.
I hope my door will be open and my arms ready. I hope she will feel my love. My faith and my hope in her.
I’ll look her in the eye, take her face into my hands and say, “Don’t give up, sweet girl. This world is yours”.
Because I love her.
Because I believe in her.
Because I have hope in her.
Yes, my sweet girl, this world is yours.
…..Because it’s true.
There are few things that little children say that startle me. Mainly because our daughter has managed to say it all. But also because that’s what children do. They embarrass you, think you’re crazy, and boy, they’ll tell one of your secrets so fast your head will spin. So far, we’ve escaped that embarrassing moment. For now.
But what fascinates me, is the adoration little girls feel for their fathers sometimes. I mean, I spend all day with this girl, trying to keep her happy, trying to make her laugh, and trying to keep her fed. You’d think I’d be fun. But when daddy comes home, the need for mommy vanishes. A new parent’s in town and nothing compares to him. To her daddy. He flings her around, tells her silly jokes, and laughs loud. And he makes her feel special.
So, after watching them dance for what seemed like three hours, I thought, I can be cool, too. I can dance with her, too. I’ll look less ridiculous maybe, but just as cool.
So here we were, the next day. Listening to music, cleaning the house, laughing and having a great time together. I asked her if she wanted to dance. How fun! She was so excited. So, we started dancing. I felt like I was the winner. I knew in my heart of hearts that my dancing was better than my husband’s, and that she’d definitely prefer our method of dancing- a mother and her sweet little girl, making memories. It was a sweet moment. Sweet and very short lived.
“Not like this, mom. Like this. Dance like daddy!”
She really said that. She really did. In the middle of our dance, she stopped and looked me straight in the face and told me to dance like daddy. Apparently, my idea of dancing was different than her idea of dancing. I’m just not daddy, that’s the difference. It was funny. I’ll be honest, it was hilarious. I even tried to mimic his strange rhythm, and his really bad expressions. I just couldn’t be a horrible dancer. I have style and rhythm. He has jerking motions and awkward steps. How anyone calls that dancing, I have no clue. But she does. She loves it. He takes her little hand and spins her around and around. He makes her giggle and shriek and laugh so hard I’m afraid she’ll be dizzy and fall over. But that’s what they do, and he is her daddy.
And that’s their dance.
She waits for him to come through that door, you know. If she hears a truck outside she gets excited and says over and over that her daddy is home. I have to tell her he isn’t home yet, and it makes her sad. I take care of her, but boy, he makes her live. No one can compare to that. Not ever. And not even the best dancer in the world could take his place.
Because no one can dance like daddy.
I hope when she’s older, she’ll remember this. Her little hand in his, the music playing, the laughter between them. I know I’ll always remember. It makes me love him more. It makes me proud that he’s her father.
And as I watch them dance across the floor, her eyes gazing up at him, full of adoration and love, I see it so clear.
That she’s proud of her father, too.
Have you ever held something so beautiful, so amazing, and so fragile in your hands that you didn’t want to put it down? Maybe a gift from someone you love? How about that dress hanging in your closet, that was so perfect you didn’t want to wear it? So you stared at it from time to time, waiting for the perfect time to put it on? How about those other moments, those heartbreaking moments when you’re not thinking, and you set that beautiful gift down, and it shatters. The dress you kept waiting to wear for a perfect moment? It no longer fits you. These are those moments that you would take back if you could, right? And it’s heartbreaking that you just can’t.
That’s how I feel about Emma.
“I’m leaving, mommy”. She had her backpack on, her serious expression set in defiance, and I could hear Dan laughing from the other room. Where did she think she was going? I had to laugh, too. But inside, I couldn’t help but ache. Right now she is a two year old little girl, playing games, jumping around, singing songs.
But she won’t be, forever.
Sometimes I see her older, going to school, playing with friends, getting her license. And sometimes I see her dressed in white. I see her dancing with her father, in the middle of the room, the lights down low, the crowd hushed. I see her with her head on his shoulder, his arms around her tight, like he did when she was a little girl. And then I see her walk away happily, with the man she loves, starting her own little life. It’s going to happen, you know. So in moments like this, when she comes to me and says “I’m leaving, mommy”, I can’t help but hurt. I can’t help but miss her already.
“I’m leaving, mommy”. I know it’s going to happen. I see it clearly in my mind, that her childhood days are quickly passing us by, as each day she’s smarter and prettier and bigger than she ever was. She needs me less each day, and each day I need her more. When she tells me she loves me, I have to pull her close and tell her the same. When she cries when I leave, I long to stay. And when she tells me she’s leaving, I feel my heart break.
Because I know someday, she’ll mean it. It won’t be a silly game. It will be real.
There won’t be any toys to trip over. No singing down the hall.
Her room will be empty.
That inevitable day will come. We’ll walk her to the door and tell her how much we love her. Dan will tell a joke, but I know if I look into his eyes, I’ll see his heart breaking. She’ll smile that amazing smile.
And then she’ll kiss us goodbye.
I know. I already know how it ends. But I’m not going to wait until that dress is too tight, or until that cherished gift gets broken. I’m going to enjoy every moment with that little girl, every time she laughs or cries or screams or smiles. Because it won’t last. And I don’t want to regret what I didn’t do with her.
These moments won’t last forever, things will change. And so will Emma.
She won’t be little forever. And that’s okay. Because right now, she is.
And right now, she’s ours.