You know what? Today my daughter is exactly the same age I was when my mother died.
It’s a weird milestone, I know, and not one I noticed with the boys. But it is easier to calculate with Lilah because her birthday is two days before mine. So, since Monday is the anniversary of my mother’s death and Lilah turns two in September, today she is exactly the age I was when my mother died.
I also think I noticed this particular day with her because she is so absurdly fond of me. She fancies herself mama’s little helper – she comes with me to drop of the boys, accompanies me to the grocery, stands on a stool and cooks with me, comes along to pick up the boys. Day after day she is at my side, and she has come to consider that her rightful spot.
Lately she has started telling jokes and playing little games with me. “Who is cute?” I ask her.
“Mama!” she exclaims.
“You’re my baby doll,” I reply.
“No, Mama!” she shouts, pointing at me.
“Who’s a genius?” I ask, assured of the reply.
She has a charming sense of humor. At the beach, she sits with her legs out in the water and kicks. I sit with my legs out and kick, too. Then she pulls her legs up, and I am supposed to follow suit. Then she raises her little hands in the air, and so do I. She chortles, delighted that we understand one another.
Her personality has come out in spades. She demands her babydoll. She asks to be excused from the dinner table then carries her plate to the kitchen, where one of the boys receives it from her and puts it up on the counter. She cuddles her stuffed animals and covers herself in stickers or magic marker whenever given the chance. She puts her shoes on the right feet most of the time, and if she gets them on the wrong feet, she’ll correct it when I bring it to her attention. Today, she got into a brawl with an almost-four-year-old friend of Benjamin’s at a birthday party when he got into the driver’s seat of a fire truck next to her. She kept trying to shove him back out.
She is so much like I must have been. My mother apparently once said of me, “How to curb the will without breaking the spirit?” Well, Lilah’s will is strong but harmless. It mostly tends towards things like giggling as she runs to the back of the minivan to hide from me when I want to buckle her into her seat. She has the will and the spirit, and an assurance that comes from knowing her spot in my universe is secure.
Some of the things I watch her do and remember her doing, my mother must have watched me do and remembered me doing. But I remember nothing of my mother.
And, if I died this day, leaving Lilah at exactly the age I was, she would not remember me.
She would forget the mama who was so central to her existence. Forget making smoochy noises at me to get a kiss. Forget snuggling in against me. Forget smooshing her hands into the bread dough. Forget riding on the bike behind me, dropping her book just as we got on an upward incline.
So, I noticed this day and then kissed her goodnight, grateful that for her today was just another day. “Who’s cute?” I asked her.