I stand in the doorway, unnoticed, watching her while she draws. Her head is bent low over her paper, the tips of her straw-colored hair almost touching the flat writing surface of the little school desk that her Nana rescued from a yard sale for five dollars. Despite the slightness of her frame, the expression of extreme concentration on her unlined brow makes her look curiously studious as she hunches over her drawing, rendering each line painstakingly, and then attacking it with her giant gum eraser when she see something she doesn’t like.
I am overwhelmed with a species of muted sorrow. She is growing so fast . It seems like only last week she was lining her stuffed animals against the wall to play “school,” teaching them the alphabet and scolding them in her nonsensical toddler’s vocabulary. Only last week. But maybe time is different now. Four years have passed. And I’ve spent every moment of them, every moment I can, watching her.
I try to speak to her, but she never answers. Maybe I should have listened more when she was little. Now I grieve for those moments, working at my laptop at night, when she would wobble over and try to insert herself onto my lap, dividing my attention from my work. It seemed so important at the time…
I feel a tear slip down my cheek and I laugh softly at the irony. “I love you so much, ” I say to her, for probably the thousandth time these past few years. I have to make sure she knows. I wasn’t ready to go. My heart would have broken in half, had there been any life left there, at the thought of not being there to watch her grow, to tell her how special she was to me, and let her know everyday how much I loved her. So I stayed for a while longer.
I drift soundlessly to her side and peer over her shoulder. She has a colored pencil clutched tightly in her little hand -it’s Peach- as she surveys her art with all of a seven year old’s critical eye. The three figures on the page stand in a line, linked together by their stick fingers. Two large and one small one in the middle. They stand in front of a white house with purple shutters and a lumpy brown dog frolics in the very green grass behind. A huge yellow sun with long eyelashes and pink cheeks smiles down on them.
After another moment, she puts the Peach pencil down and picks up a red one the color of bricks. I watch silently as she pencils a wobbly heart next to the figure in the blue triangle dress. Then she begins to carefully print. She prints the word “mommy”, and my eyes once again fill with phantom tears. I can go home now.