Esther has so many questions lately. Hard to answer questions. Questions that I can only reply with, "That's a good question." Questions like: “How does glass get colored?” “How does Julie Andrews make her voice go away?” (I'm still trying to figure that one out but it has something to do with the concept of Julie Andrews the actress vs. Julie Andrews the nun and nanny.) “Why is Sara in the Little Princess’ hair curly then straight, then curly?” “What are teeth made of?” ‘What is paper made of?” “How do you make a newspaper?” “What are bones made of?” “How do you make metal?”
Then there are the more delicate questions:“How did Isla get in your tummy?” Or the simply unanswerable questions: “Why do men like to fight and kill each other so much?” (Perhaps we are listening to a bit too much NPR.)
I love my daughter's mind at work, but with each question I feel she is stripping away at the omnicient facade that makes us the grownups and her the kid. She is gradually getting the picture that Mommy and Daddy don’t know everything after all. And by the time she is ten she will realize that Mommy and Daddy know nothing. How disillusioned she will be.
Sometimes, when the stars are lined up just so and the earth is tilting at that perfect angle between day and night, Esther and I are almost like lovers. She strokes my hair and asks me to read her a book. I tell her I will, just after I check on Isla to make sure she has fallen asleep. I lean in to kiss her nose as I rise and she grabs my left arm to feel the moles that grow on its fleshy backside. Those moles that have been her security blanket since she was a baby. She clings, I linger, breathing her in, all of it, her , me, us. She says, “Mummy I want you.” I say, “ I know Essie, I won’t be long.”
I can’t help thinking about young lovers going through the ritual of goodbye again and again before it sticks. They keep coming back for one last kiss, one last lingering, swaying embrace, one last whispered endearment. This is nice. I love how close we can be without smothering each other. It is not often that two people can be so comfortable with each other. It will fade, I know. It will end. I am not like this with my mother. Esther won’t be like this with me forever. We will become physical strangers someday. I will annoy the crap out of her with my incessant questions, constantly trying to pry information out of her. And she will shut herself up tight as a clam, for fear of being misunderstood, judged, criticized. Our love will become more obligatory, more cerebral, less passionate. If I am anything like my mother, it will be something that is unspoken, always there so as to go unnoticed, taken for granted. I am not looking forward to that time. In the meantime, I will enjoy this little passionate love affair of ours.
The other afternoon Essie was playing, “nap.” She had applied copious amounts of lipstick to her face and climbed into bed this way. She propped herself up on pillows like some sort of movie star. When I went to kiss her, she smiled and turned her head, presenting her cheek so I wouldn’t mess up her make up. This move was so natural and unscripted, I am convinced she was a Hollywood actress in her past life.
Her ego is so strong. She was waiting for her boy cousins to come over last week and it was as if she was starring in her own movie. She had the perfect outfit picked out and was rehearsing arrival scenarios to pick the best one she wanted them to find her in. She ended up perched on the arm of a chair with her favorite music of the week, Brigid Boden, playing like a soundtrack. She crossed her legs and placed her hands in her lap, looking lovely and aloof like a grown woman in the body of a four-year-old girl. Watching her wander around the house, so immersed in the music and the emotions it conjures, I see a teenager. I see myself. yikes.