She will be happily suck suck sucking on a paci and then POP it out of her mouth, holding it out to me----
"Show? Show? Show?" she'll wave the paci in the air.
That's when I'll retrieve the paci from her and inspect it for the errant Alice Hair that she's clearly requesting I remove. Show = Hair.
"SEE ME? SEE ME?"
She is standing right at my knees, arms stretched up as far as she can reach, waiting for me to hold her.
"Yes, baby, come see me." I say smiling.
I know that coultie is cookie; jrass is grass; jreen is green. I love how medicin-nin is her word for Motrin and she likes to call me pokey-lokey (in response to me cheerily saying, Hi Pookie-Lookie). The number seven is semmen, the number eleven a charming combination word of twelven. And when she is feeling particularly expansive, she loves to give me a 'tiss.
The shorthand is something I prayed for, hoped for, worked for, for so long. Before she could talk, when she was gurgling and looking at me so expectantly, I worried that I'd always be at a loss with her, that I'd never understand what she needed and be able to convey the same. But it's funny just how much I've taken her expansive vocabulary for granted. These days I find myself getting frustrated when she is madly repeating the same nonsense word, hoping that by mere repetition I'll magically understand that JREEN PREZLE is clearly the green puzzle that I stow inside our bag for keeping quiet at church.
Last week she started waking up in the middle of the night - several nights of 4am wake-up calls with terrified screaming and tears that wouldn't stop. Initially I approached the situation with a moderate sense of calm, thinking it was the product of her cold, then perhaps she was just being difficult and clearly TWO. But as the days drilled on with no end in sight to the sandpaper gritty sleep-deprived eyes, I started to get desperate. When the 4am-won't-go-back-to-sleep insanity actually became a O-N-E am cribside sit-in, I knew that the initial hiccup was something else - something else entirely.
It was a scared screaming, a terrified screaming when I went into her room. She wouldn't calm down even as I patted her diapered bum, holding her close to my chest. I whispered in her ear quietly mama's here, mama's here, mama's here, mama's here... you're safe baby, you're safe, you're safe, you're safe... until finally she whimpered a shuddering sigh and quieted. We swayed and walked for a long while. I rubbed sleep from my eyes and tried to be present in the moment, to understand what it might mean, to grasp what I could possibly do to help her.
And as the night noises continued outside Alice's bedroom window, the moon hanging impossibly lonely in the sky, this is what I did: I sat in the dark and talked to my daughter. I told her she was perfectly safe inside our house. I told her that there wasn't anything that could escape the careful attention of her daddy, he the ever-observant one. I told her that we hover on the edges of every breath she breathes, there is nothing she does that goes beyond our notice. I told her that angels watch over her while she sleeps - that there is a host of spirits who comb through her dreams and are whispering quiet words of peace even now in the dark. I told her about her fuzzy friends, Fergus and Phoebe - that even as she slept, they paced the house on paws intent on her best interest. I told her that I carefully tidy her days to my best ability, doing everything to give her the sweetest, the brightest, the most tenderly chosen carefree childhood that I can. I told her she should be dreaming of dandelion fluff and the quietest caress of cat whiskers on her cheek.
Then, with a sigh, I asked her what was wrong, what was worrying her so very much in the dark. I waited quietly to hear something back from her, some sign or word that would give me a clue to the problem.
And with all my explanations, with all my promises, with all my intentions to sooth and to quiet--- the shorthand failed. There are no words right now for Alice to tell me of her trouble, no simple phrase to whisper that will give me insight into her cries.
Just this in the dark: a face wet with her tears, her heart thrumming like a hummingbird, and a clumsy mother stuttering promises that she will work to make true.