I remember as a child laying with my head on my mother's lap and staring at her hands. They were much bigger than mine, and the skin was different. And they were soft when she rubbed my face and combed her fingers through my hair. I loved those nurturing times, and when I would stare at her hands, my thoughts would turn to wondering how many dishes she had washed and how many pairs of socks she had folded...in her entire life. In her entire, long life. A million? A million billion??
For a little dose of perspective, my mother was younger at that time - when she had four daughters in elementary school - than I am now with my first baby girl. To me her hands symbolized nurturance and kindness. And adult-ness. Adults can't be kids anymore. They have to have their act together and know about the world and have answers for kids' questions, etc.
Three days ago I was driving and Jelly Bean was in her carseat. I looked back to check on her during a stoplight, and she was sitting there with both of her hands raised, palms up, and she had the most contemplative look on her tiny face. Most people would say that she was probably thinking, What are these things? or How long have I had these and didn't know it? And she probably was. But you didn't see that facial expression. It seemed more like, What can I do with these? The potential! I wonder if they'll get bigger, or stronger. I wonder if someday I'll be able to do everything Mama does. After all, that's the stuff I wondered when I was a kid - but, I know, that's me and not her.
Before I started writing this blog post, I was nursing JB. Sometimes she does this thing while she's nursing where she quietly lays her little hand on her cheekbone, or over her eyes. Her little hand, that is barely big enough yet to completely cover her temple. And sometimes when she lays her hand there, it's more than I can bear, and I will lay my hand over hers and pray with all of my wrenching heart that I can protect her and guide her and love her the way she needs.
So, I am conflicted. Half of the time I want to be her adventurous/unpredictable Tour Guide For Life, a la Willy Wonka...and the other half of the time I want to hold her close to my chest and just stay home and scream out the front door, "You can all just stay away! Nobody here has anything for you, and definitely nobody will ever be interested in leaving to adventure into the broken world in which you operate and which you continue to make worse, by the way!" Okay, that's a lot to scream. And the sweet, retired ladies who live across the street are probably the only ones who would hear me and I don't think they're making anything worse. They mostly just keep their lawns immaculate and make small talk with me and each other during the long summer evenings. So, anyway...
I do realize that, if we do our job, JB will actually someday leave for her big adventure and we will not be invited. I will not be invited. And then probably years later...on some regular old day she will look down, as I have, during an unprotected moment and realize, These hands look just like my mother's.