Long Days and Short Years

just trying to pay attention so I don't miss my life


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No Time to Waste

Tuesday is our day.  No preschool.  No work.  No ambitious goals.

Just one four year old and one distracted-but-trying-not-to-be mama.  Tuesday is our day.

We spent the morning teaching her dolls to swim and putting away the laundry.  The neighbor boy knocked, and she went out to enjoy the mud while I checked my e-mail.  Leftovers for lunch, dishwasher loaded, and then I asked, “So, what do you want to do this afternoon?  Roller skating?  Dinosaur museum?  Library?”

“I want…” she considered, “I want to go for a walk.”

“Okay.  Where do you want to walk to?”

Wrong question.  She practically rolled her eyes in exasperation.  “Mama!  We can’t waste time going somewhere.  I just want to walk!”

I couldn’t believe that she said that:  We can’t waste time going somewhere.  I never thought of it that way before.

And so we didn’t waste a moment.  We strapped her marker-streaked Belle doll into the old green umbrella stroller and ambled up the hill.  If we had been going somewhere, the pace would have been painfully slow; but since this was what we were doing, I let her lead.  The streets were quiet, nearly deserted in the lull between lunch and school dismissal.  We circled around and around, stepping over broken glass, and peering into the caverns of rotted trees.  She stopped to feel the warm air coming out of a dryer vent.

After nearly an hour we sat on a low wall to share a bag of raisins and peanuts.  Our coats were open now, and our hats and gloves cushioned the baby doll’s head.  The sun reflected off metallic candy wrappers sticking out of the storm drain.

“Mama” she sighed, “do you know what?”

I looked at her serious little face expectantly, “What honey?”

“Mama.  Sometimes… (here she gave a dramatic pause), sometimes I smell a lion nearby.”  She studied my face for signs of fear.  I tried not to laugh.   “But (another dramatic pause) then I know that it’s just someone pretending to be a lion.”  She raised her eyebrows and I took a deep breath to steady myself.  “Mama.  Are there any more raisins?”

There were.  But you’ll be relieved to know that lions don’t eat raisins.  We finished our snack in silence, and began walking toward the bus stop.  It was almost time for big sister to come home, and she couldn’t wait to show off the rocks she had just collected.

Though after all of that, it was a little disappointing to have a destination.

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Has Anyone Told You, You’re Beautiful?

She was two years old, and covered in cream cheese.  Pink cream cheese smeared across her nose, the corners of her mouth, the tips of her pigtails, and even (somehow) on her stomach.  Her stomach was available for decoration because it stuck out, soft and round, peek-a-boo below a too-short shirt that her mother needed to remove from circulation.

She was two years old, and she was beautiful.

Her mother was watching her.  Watching the progress of the pink cheese and calculating the inevitable clean-up.  Watching the belly bounce and the shirt ride the wave.  Watching when someone walked by, outside, on the sidewalk beyond.

The woman outside was not like the mother and daughter inside.  She was clean.  Her hair was done, her face, stunning.  Her clothes were stylish; pressed and curved to her sculpted body.  She laughed into her cell phone, stood for a moment, and then moved on.

The watching mother sat as the earth shifted beneath.  A wave of sadness hit.  She looked at her daughter.

One day you won’t know how beautiful you are.

One day, the mother knew, the self-consciousness would hit.  The bar would be raised, raised to a standard as high as the perfectly sculpted woman outside the window.  Her daughter would look at herself and compare.  She would look at her clothes and complain.

She would wipe the cream cheese off her face.

The mother knew the lying voices too well.  Beauty that can be bought, sold and measured.  Beauty as a competition.  Beauty as an unattainable goal.  But this wasn’t beauty.  These were lies.  And the mother made a vow.

Beautiful.  We will tell you that you’re beautiful.  Again and again, forever and ever.  Beautiful when covered in mud.  Beautiful with mismatched clothes. Beautiful when taller than the boys.  Beautiful when sleepy, beautiful when poised, beautiful when laughing so hard that milk comes out of your nose.

Beautiful when your eyes are wide… like they are right now.

The mother vowed to reclaim a word that had been stolen from her, and hopefully, over the years, to help her daughter (and help herself) see that there is more beauty in the depth of the eyes and the warmth of a smile than there could ever be in a flat waist or a perfect outfit.  Maybe, together, they could see it.  Maybe, together, they could hear and speak the truth.

And maybe the beautiful truth would set them free.

*The title of this post is taken from a song that ran through my head as I wrote–“Beautiful For Me” by Nicole Nordman.