I didn’t sleep well last night. You came shuffling into our bedroom in the shadows, a half-asleep, half-awake, sniffling and confused body. You climbed into our bed and snuggled, wrapping your eight year old limbs up around my body. I turned away, you nestled closer. I sighed, your hand fell down over my forehead. I moved to the edge of the bed. You found me, even in slumber, and put your arm on my hip.
Yesterday, we walked the ice crusted sidewalks from co-op classes down to the diner we frequent. You held my hand, so as not to slip. We skittered together, keeping pace with Alex as best we could, with your weight dragging me back, or down, or sideways. Our laughter swirled around us in puffs of white vapor and mist from our lips. As soon as we survived the walk and found our way to our table, we ordered all things hot. Coffee. Cocoa. Soups.
And as the morning bled into afternoon, as the hot chocolate with whipped cream and chocolate syrup, fed sugar into your veins, you (and Alex) became a mess of giggles. And with each guffaw, each I’m-afraid-I’ll-snort-this-pea-soup-right-out-my-nose burst of laughter, you crashed up against me. You linked your arm around mine, you banged your head against my shoulder. You shook me, shook my hot coffee, over and over.
Until I was over all of it, and we left without dessert.
I love hugs. I love touch. I love leaning in close to someone who loves me, who will wrap their arms around me, willingly, and help steady the world when I am unsure of my footing.
And I know you love this, you need this too.
But the herky-jerky jostling, the uncoordinated bumping of elbows and knees while I’m trying to sleep, the hard crash of your small frame up against my side, grabbing at my arm while I’m trying not to spill hot coffee on us both…it’s hard for me.
Earlier this week, during your free reading time, you chose to flip through our Science Encyclopedia. In all the world of science and nature, of weather systems, ecosystems, electromagnetism, crystal formation, in all of the world of wonderful science related things to read about, your flipping stopped at “The Reproductive System” and you read, paragraph after paragraph, and the little text beneath each picture of the baby growing in the mother.
Do you have any questions? I asked, because, well, it’s not something we’ve discussed at any length yet.
No. And you just kept reading, flipping, studying diagrams.
I held my breath, the next half an hour, waiting for questions that didn’t ever come.
This morning, I’m editing pictures of a wedding reception. There’s one of a couple on the dance floor, mid-spin. Their hands are up in the air, the height of the twirl, where only fingertips touch. It’s a here-and-then-gone moment of connection, frozen through my lens.
And the obvious strikes me, right in the heart.
Touch is important. So, very, important.
And now, I’m almost wishing that you had said yes, when I asked if you had any questions about babies and how they happen.
Not because I long to talk candidly about the details of ovaries or eggs meeting sperm or how they are introduced in the first place. But, because this is a subject that a dry science text is insufficient to explain to an eight year old girl.
The science of it all, the diagrams of babies, growing, changing, shifting downward and preparing for birth, it’s all endgame. It’s the endgame of a relationship that starts with fingertips touching, hand holding, and maybe even the clumsy closeness of soup-snorting laughter, with your arm linking around someone you love.
In a few years, when your world starts to shift, when the dryness of science books becomes nothing but words on a page, as distant from your reality as dinosaur bones in Asia or a satellite orbiting the earth. When you’re fumbling through all of the hard things. The emotional things. The things that books can’t teach. The things I can’t really teach. The things that will leave you needing a soft place to come and be safe…I know that I’ll want you to crash into me.
For now, it is hard for me. This rough touch. This clumsy bumping. This coffee wasting nudging. This sleepless night snuggling.
But, I want to hug you enough, to let you crash up against me as much as you need, coffee spills and all, so that you’ll know, when the world is unsure and your footing slips, I’ll be there.
And that I’m here now.