A dragonfly, broken wings, it’s dying―surely, there’s something she can do to save it. A soft bed in a safe place. Protection. But no―death comes, tears come, tenderness overflowing, and my little daughter’s life is broken, ruined, the worst day ever, nothing’s ever right… until this thought comes―Can I put it in my museum?
Rebound. Recover. But every time she looks at that dragonfly, she remembers―the attempt to save, the death, the tragedy.
She remembers everything she’s ever felt, my Golden Heart, she remembers why, and she will tell you about it, in detail. Words and stories flow from her; when she is silent, they flow too―onto paper, in colours, bold strokes, small dots.
She is my lesson, my meditation, my wonder. I don’t remember as well as she does, but I do remember this: the first time I held her in my arms and looked at those eyes, so blue, so blue―still so blue―and that tuft of red hair, but I didn’t see them, I saw Daughter, My Daughter, girl child, future mother, the future… I saw… what? Something so big and so frightening and so wonderful I still can’t articulate it: her connection to me and to all her future daughters and daughters’ daughters and my connection to my mother and her mother and all the mothers before… a feeling so big and overwhelming, love is an inadequate word. Love is just the beginning.
I love my little daughter, and she loves. She loves―well, people, of course, her family, her friends―but she loves the world in a way so intense and deep, it frightens me who loves her and who wants to protect her, shelter her, keep her safe, because I see how exposed, how vulnerable she is. She gives her heart, on her outstretched hands. She will love you as she loves the dragonfly, the leaves on the tree―does it hurt them when they fall? No? Are you sure?―the grass beneath her feet, the dandelions that she gathers into bouquets every spring.
It’s dangerous to love like that, and it terrifies me. It is is easy to hurt this precious child, to betray her. Even those of us who love her madly: perhaps especially those of us who love her madly. And those who do not really care? It terrifies me. As I hold her and listen to her speak of her heart, her loves, her feelings, I want to equip her for the scary future… but yet, every attempt to do so is a destruction of something about her that is the best thing about her, the most critical, defining feature of her.
So I hold her and I listen and I stroke her hair.
My Golden Heart, I call her, and I tell her what an amazing gift it is to feel as fully as she does. And how difficult it is to reign those feelings in, to hold them in abeyance, to reflect on them―but how necessary, at least sometimes. Does she hear? Understand? Does it help? I don’t know. The tears fall, and I hold her close, and I will myself to be patient, because my natural inclination is to not honour this aspect of my daughter most precious, to make her repress, behave, smile, bury that pain…
As she gets older, she does. I see it―and the price it terrible. It is, for her, not self-control, but denial of herself. Is there a middle way, another way? We will struggle with this, she and I forever, perhaps all of her and my life. I don’t have the answer, I don’t see a path.
So I hold her. I am her mother and I am her ally. There are plenty of enemies out there who will make her repress, bury and hide.
I will not be one of them.
A moment of pure joy, pure excitement: she feels these as fully, as dramatically as the pain and the tears. And spreads it. I feel it, the world feels it―she infects us with her love. She flies, leaps, exults. And we run with her, carried by her joy and love.
My Golden Heart, a gift to the world. I kiss the tip of her nose, her fingertips. She flies away. I watch her, with adulation, with concern, with fear. She is my lesson: will she teach me trust?