We spent the morning painting, and as usual you surprised me, mixing colors without fear or regret, adding in sparkles and shaving cream and anything else I would let you get away with. You wanted to experience art to the limits, and I loved it. It was as if you grew up in this wacky house, where we have always done crazy things together and called them creativity.
After long hours of creating, we go to a birthday lunch with friends and you sit patiently through it all and when we get home you are so HAPPY that it is mommy time again. And you climb on the counter and take down all the little tea cups scattered amongst the glasses and we find a little tea pot and all on your own you initiate our very first tea party together. We drink water together, pretending its “cha” (tea) and you clink glasses with me and you say that Chinese word that means “bottoms up” and you laugh. And there is so much joy all over you, that I cannot say no, and while laundry waits and other children call, and crumbs cover the floors, I drink more and more water/cha with you at the messy kitchen counter, just to see your eyes sparkle, simply to hear you laugh.
And when it’s almost bedtime, I realize that is has gotten later than I realize and you are still awake. It is time for me to go pick up your daddy from school. And instead of being sound asleep, easily watched by big brother and sister, you are still awake enough to notice me go. So I tell you that you and I, we have to go out. We have to go get Baba. And you, you look at me with that quiet authority and you say “no” in the the third tone, the way you do, question-like. Your voice a “u” in the air. But you do not say it like a question, you say it like a decision. And I tell you again, in my quiet firm way, that we must go, you and I. It is then that you tell me you plan: that big sister will be my helper to go and get baba. That you, you and big brother will stay home and wait for us. And it is with astonishment that I realize you are campaigning for us to be apart. That moment has come, the moment I have thought was still long off, when you are ready for me to walk out the door without you.
Jie Jie (big sister) is willing to watch you, so I give you bedtime books to read together and you say “nite-nite” and you kiss me and you run into sister’s room – which you love. And I begin to walk out the door, all of my heart longing to still be needed, and also, overjoyed that I no longer am, so much. And it is then that you run after me, your heart leaping out of your body, and jump into my arms, and shower me with kisses, and say, in your inimitable commanding, yet humorous way: “hurry up!! Hurry and drive the car fast and come home! Vroom Vroom!” And I will never forget the look in your eyes: confidence, security, joy, love, fearlessness, hope, expectation, safety . . . .all of these and more.
Us mothers, we lay down our lives so that you will no longer need us, so that you will take wing and soar, so that you will walk away and not need to look back. But when you do, it breaks and makes us all at once. I cried as I walked to the car alone tonight – I did not expect you to become independent so soon. And I cried because I dreamed that you would be this brave, this strong, this ready for the world. And God whispered to me, “she’ll need you forever, you’ll see.”
And today was your three week anniversary in our family. And today, on day 21, you and I, we inhabited separate geography for the first time in those three weeks, but as we did all our lives before. And yet not at all the same. Tonight I stepped away for a few minutes from a girl that I would not have recognized three weeks ago. You’ve already come so far. I can’t wait to know you more my Ava. We may not always be together, hand in hand, side by side. But our spirits can never be apart – you are here like glue, baby girl. Part of us always. And that makes moments apart oh-so-safe.
I’m so glad you know that too.