My greatest fear in life is losing my loved ones to illness or accident. I occasionally lay in bed and fret about my most recent conversations with them. What did I say? Did I tell them how much I loved them? Did we conclude our interaction on a positive note? On the heels of that morbidity, I also worry about dying young myself, probably owing to the early death of my dear friend E and my continued grappling with it. These concerns have only escalated in recent years with the exigencies of motherhood, the advancing age of my parents, and the unthinkable passing away of a child in our family several years ago.
This is dark, macabre speak. It probably doesn’t belong here, on this (generally) mirthful blog. But it feels better to write about it.
At night, after we have said our prayers together, I sit in the dark of mini’s nursery, her long body laying across my knees, her head cradled in the crook of my arm, and I smooth down her hair and repeat the same fistful of affirmations:
“You are my smart, beautiful, brave, kind little girl, and I love you more than anything.”
The saying of this has become so routine that occasionally the words fly out of my mouth without thought. The cadence is engrained; it has the shape of an incantation. I could say it in my sleep.
I have said these words to her for nearly every night of her two years with us first because they are true and earned, but also because I want desperately for her to see who she is and how loved she is every single day of her life. In my more morbid moments, I want to always know that these are the words I have said most frequently — most consistently — to her over the course of her life.
A week ago, Mr. Magpie, observing mini in the midst of some activity, commented: “You are so smart and brave!” Mini’s head popped up, and she looked at me, and she said: “Go to bed?”
I knew, in a flash, the connection she had forged: the repetition of the words “smart and brave” from my nightly affirmation, its normal positioning just before I place her in her crib. And she was looking straight at me. Those are mommy’s words to me, she was saying.
The brief interaction both took the wind out of me (I had to compose myself, quietly) and left me deeply reassured. I realized that she has internalized my affirmations — that she connects them to me, to my view of her. That we have already established a baseline of love and affection and admiration that I hope she will carry with her forever.
Later that week — on the day I thought micro had flipped to breech (which turned out to be true) — Mr. Magpie and I were recounting our days while mini played on the carpet in front of us and I mentioned, with wobbling voice, my discomfort and disappointment at the prospect of micro’s positioning. A tear slipped down my cheek. I hate crying in front of mini, but there it was. Mr. Magpie came over and put his arms around me. Mini paused, mid-play, and looked over at us with concern.
“Mommy needs a hug,” Mr. Magpie explained. Mini wordlessly climbed onto the couch and laid her head on my shoulder, patting my back with her little palm. Her curious eyes searched mine. I smiled at her, smoothed her hair.
“Thank you, my sweet girl!” I said, in as cheery a voice as I could muster. She slid back off the couch to return to her toys. It was the first time I had thought of her as my own emotional support, a member of my own personal cheering committee. I was astonished at the way she’d comported herself, knowing just what to do and how to do it: the consoling pat on the back, the quiet concern on her face. She was mirroring the hundreds and hundreds of comforting sessions we’ve afforded her.
When I drift into distress at night, worrying about the health of my loved ones, I find peace in thinking through these two interactions. They remind me that our loved ones know we love them, and that grandiose letters and proclamations (though kind and welcome!) pale in comparison to the quotidian expressions of affection and solicitude that emerge naturally, day after day: the tender words we say, the offhanded texts checking in, the deference to my preference in ice cream flavors, the unmeditated compliments and gestures of thoughtfulness that highlight our weeks. These musings transform my crepuscular gloom and doom into something else entirely — something life-filling, life-affirming — and I lay there and think, drowsily, calmly, of mini’s appropriately placed rejoinder: “Go to bed.”
+A $15 cardigan you probably need. This is the kind of workhorse item I buy begrudgingly (“do I need a solid-colored cardigan? It’s so much more fun to buy impractical footwear!”) and then wear to threads. Perfect for throwing on at home, over athletic gear, etc. Especially convenient for a pregnant or nursing mother.
+Speaking of impractical footwear, these shoes were essentially made for me. I need them.
+Oh man. I love (!!!) this voluminous, high-fashion dress.
+Don’t miss out on these $25 ultra-chic woven mules! I LOVE.
+Eberjey jammies, 50% off — I own this exact cut/set in a different print and LOVE IT. So soft.