She is curled against my shoulder, tucked in the very same spot so many times, sometimes for minutes, sometimes half the night, this shoulder belonging to her for just three years now, and it seems impossible to fit the largeness of this feeling inside a time so small.
I should know by now, honestly, even if I cannot fully understand it, that time is a magic trick, an optical illusion, relentless and perfect at catching me by surprise. I gasp and marvel and wish I had paid better attention, because the infant who once spanned the length of my forearm is a little girl now who dances and somersaults and tells me when she is happy or sad and carefully holds her pinky down with her thumb announcing, “Me too three now!”
She is startling and enthralling, in ways I never even imagined when I held her for the first time. There is something in her that captivates, a quiet, subtle something that surfaces as she is growing. There are moments when I can’t take my eyes off her and I find myself staring, unwilling to miss even a breath.
She is curious and headstrong, with an all-too familiar stubborn streak woven wide within her. She is kind and deliberate, silly and affectionate, often bossy but always full of grace. She is an extension of myself, never more than a shadow’s length away, and I am all the more grateful for it.
You could say that I am weathered now; I have learned how quickly the months and years dart past. I look away for just a second to notice the smoke and mirrors and when I remember where to focus the newborn I was holding against my shoulder fits much more snugly, long legs wrapped clear around my waist; and we are hip-to-hip before we are eye-to-eye and I cannot move for fear of shattering.
I dare not blink, lest something like this should happen:
Happiest of threes, my bean sprout. You are lovelier every day.