She sleeps in my bed almost every night.
Every morning I wake up to her tiny cherub face, cheeks so round they force her eyes to squint when she smiles. She kisses my cheek and giggles.
“That kiss is for love,” she whispers, her voice in that half-a-second phase where it isn’t yet able to boom throughout the halls of the house. Her vocal chords gain strength and that blissful moment flees so quickly it is taken for granted. Her three-year-old feet are soon thudding down the stairs.
The warm sweater I am scrambling to wear hangs from my left arm as I hear a crash in the kitchen. I rush down the stairs still unable to act out the simple motions in wearing a sweater. I find her lying in a pile of broken ceramic.
As maternal instinct dictates, my first reaction is to get on my knees, cutting the left one just enough that blood slowly starts to trickle. She hops up like an acrobat, laughing hysterically. She runs off, arms flailing. Bits of tiny, ceramicshards fly off her cotton pajamas like a harsh rain.
I yell her full name and mutter dark language.
The small house seems like a mansion as I chase her up and down the stairs. Threats, pleas and promises of sweet surprises alternate in my choice of words. I finally catch her and tell her we need to get going, we are going to be late.
Screaming begins, and then tears. She wriggles out of the captivity of my arms and escapes to her bedroom, slamming the door.
As I hear the objects in her room being thrown against the bunny-themed walls, I pause to leaf through pictures of a smiling little girl I keep on my desk. Blonde hair like a halo, cupid bowed lips that only this morning kissed my cheek so sweetly. I hear another smash and realize there are pieces of my favourite coffee mug I need to pick up downstairs.
I was sitting at the kitchen table twenty-two years ago. My mother had purchased a limited edition glass Disney-themed ornament. Being three years old at the time, I hadn’t realized this special purchase was made for my benefit. All I knew was she left to quickly use the bathroom. Before leaving she spoke in what I remember to be soft voice.
“Please don’t touch them.”
The same instant the sound of the bathroom door closed rung that of Mickey Mouse’s face smashing against the kitchen floor tile. It reached my mother’s ears in record time. I swore it wasn’t me as she sighed heavily.
I’m not sure if she went to her own bedroom after cleaning the mess to look at photos of me, dark ringlets, wearing a smile where my cheeks forced my eyes to squint.
If she did, that was the same bed where weeks later I sat watching her take her large earrings off in her dresser mirror. There were tears in her eyes as her brow furrowed and she informed me I had embarrassed her. There was a pain in my stomach after hearing those words, then anger.
I had acted up in a department store when she didn’t get me that toy I wanted. I can’t remember the toy now and doubt I remembered it in that moment on the bed. The pain in my gut outlived her. She died three years later but the questions from that statement didn’t.
Was I a bad daughter, or she an awful mother? What did that statement made in front of a bedroom mirror mean?
Thirty-six hours of saying, “I can’t wait to meet her,” were endured before I heard my daughter cry for the first time. I thought she was meowing and questioned aloud if I hadbirthed a kitten. After the commotion of friends and family crying, hugging and expressing congratulations, my daughter and I were brought to our room.
We looked at each other, in the quiet, in the dark. It was perfect.
My mother, though unseen, was there too. The love I had for my daughter was the love my mom had for me.
A moment so intimate it gives me goose bumps when remembered.
My mother is there for all these moments. For all the laughter and all the moments where I break down and I cry out to my daughter, “You embarrassed me!”
The first time I uttered that sentence the guilt in my belly was replaced by an understanding.
I say these words because I am honest and human. I say these words because I love my daughter so much I can not understand the emotions, good or bad, she evokes in me.
We roll on the floor laughing at silly rhymes. When she is sick I will cuddle her and stroke those blonde curls from her forehead. When I am sick she will do the same after bringing me a carefully selected stuffed animal.
This overwhelming love is how my mother felt about me even in the roughest times.
That is how my mother feels about me now. It shows in how easy I find it to parent this child. I unintentionally do the same things my mother had shown me in the six years of life we shared together. The craft box in my closet, the fancy outfits and the mommy-daughter dates we have.
My mom’s adoration shows when my daughter’s tiny arms wrap around my waist.
My daughter’s blue eyes stare so intensely into mine at times; I am convinced they are those of my mother telling me she is with me always.
Every morning she kisses my cheek and whispers, her voice in the half a second phase where it isn’t yet able to boom throughout the halls of the house, “That kiss is for love.”
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