In a room, a rhyme, a song.
In the box, in books: each element
An instrument, the body
Still straining to parrot
The spirit, a being of air.
– robert pinsky
i make my daughter playlists all the time. but we call them mix tapes. it is what they really are. an act of love, careful planning, emotional evaluation, deeply rooted messages, soul stirring. i tell her i could map my entire coming of age by the music i pieced together in all of my longing and joy and suffering, before i could rent a car. we all learned how to be romantic and intentional and hopeful, through the sharing of bars that reached our solar plexuses, the words that promised to write our tenuous futures when all we could do was dream about them with goosebumps. we learned to speak with words we borrowed, and soul that had a voice, in the common language of heartbeats and hands almost touching, of first kisses and last innocence. everything was a tribute to the life running through our fingers, to which we will never catch up. but they were an era that i can see as much as i can feel. the music brings me back and all i have to do is open my eyes.
now, she is the muscle memory of my heart.
it is all the same language, it comes from the same place, but the singing is between the lines and the light. we are slicing time and preserving it, storing it for winters to come, for years we will tread through, keeping each other in our peripheral vision…when i want so badly to reach for her hand in public. i am trying to build a soundtrack that she can play back when i am not there to sing her to sleep, when she needs a dose of courage or home, when she needs a sweet hit of memory. her songs are an emotional crib sheet; if there ever is a shortcut i will carve the path by the scars of mine, maybe sparing her hurt. she always cuts through to the heart of a thing; this one will be a path to me. these pictures will be a collage of all of the soul and light within her. i want her to see it so there will be no confusion, even in the fog of the future.
i have waded out of little kid land, letting my feet sink in the sand, while i watch her swim in the distance. the cocoon we built around ourselves has been replaced with butterflies in my stomach. but they are mine, and in all the honesty i swear to her, i will not betray this one secret. she is on the verge of everything. and while the layers of knowing and worry and responsibility cloud my own eyes, she is all grace and clarity. as the noise builds, i just reach my hand back to her in the car, and it is as elegant as it was on our first night, her five fingers around pinky. my son says to me all the time, “are you mommy?”, as we play at different voices and animals and lives. “i’m always mommy,” i tell him. it is that simple now. but for her, i need to keep growing into something more. i need to leap and dive and be brave, to meet her at the top of the waves as they break. she needs to see the kind of faith i am begging her to have in herself. and i am terrified.
to be a mother is to commit a radical act of hope. to love is to walk a tightrope of fear and say “thank you” for it. i think i know what it is to have my heart broken. but i do not. i cannot imagine, because she is here and growing a more beautiful soul by the second. the world breaks and heals in a million different places every day. our worst days are an average day for someone else. in the putting back together, the making sense, the finding of beauty, we stand in the face of the world falling apart around us and say “enough”. we can only hold on to our kids with every bit of string and love and strength we can collect, only to set them free to the wind, hoping they know how to sail, hoping they know freedom in their bones before they taste it on their skin. i want for her: the corner of the world that makes her happy, to feel music when there is none, to know love and fear and safety in one breath, and to know i would give her my last one.