Wednesday, September 02, 2009

sturdy as heartwood and I didn't even know it

Yesterday marked the first day of preschool, but a runny nose and general down-in-the-dumpness made today Ava's first day. Given her refusal to leave the house yesterday morning I was amazed when she got herself dressed and matter of factly notified me that she needed her backpack. She marched into her room and got it, we put on her shoes, and the girl was ready to go.

At that moment, this moment I had been dreaming of, I suddenly didn't want to give her up. What am I thinking? Of course I want to give her up! I've been plotting and planning for this wee smidgen of free time since I don't know when. How could I be hedging now? Oh, but a part of me definitely was.

I expected to have to gently pry her little fingers from my arm, wipe away a tear or two, and extol the many merits of preschool before zipping away (of course not when her innocent little back was turned, silly). She's pulled the rug out from under me with this wanting to go. At least she asked me to stay and watch her at the door for a minute. We blew kisses and signed I love you and then she was on her own. This mini thunderstorm of a girl who's own hip bones didn't measure wider than 3 inches when she was born went and did the hokey pokey with a group of strangers today.

So, Miss Diana Gabaldon, your sentiments perfectly sum up a day like today:

"Babies are soft. Anyone looking at them can see the tender, fragile skin and know it for the rose-leaf softness that invites a finger's touch. But when you live with them and love them, you feel the softness going inward, the round-cheeked flesh wobbly as custard, the boneless splay of the tiny hands. Their joints are melted rubber, and even when you kiss them hard, in the passion of loving their existence, your lips sink down and seem never to find bone. Holding them against you, they melt and mold, as though they might at any moment flow back into your body.

But from the very start, there is that small streak of steel within each child. That thing that says "I am," and forms the core of personality.

In the second year, the bone hardens and the child stands upright, skull wide and solid, a helmet protecting the softness within. And "I am " grows, too. Looking at them, you can almost see it, sturdy as heartwood, glowing through the translucent flesh.

The bones of the face emerge at six, and the soul within is fixed at seven. The process of encapsulation goes on, to reach its peak in the glossy shell of adolescence, when all softness then is hidden under the nacreous layers of the multiple new personalities that teenagers try on to guard themselves.

In the next years, the hardening spreads from the center, as one finds and fixes the facets of the soul, until "I am" is set,
delicate and detailed as an insect in amber."