In early June in Minnesota this year, it seemed we lived in a world of rain, a land of gray. I think we spent two continuous weeks under granite skies, and my nine-year-old daughter began to feel it in her light-hungry soul. The perpetual gloom, combined with the haunting bedtime thoughts about death and loss that are common to her age, brought an above-average precipitation of tears welling up from a previously-unplumbed depth of grief and questions in her being. We were packing to move across the country that month, far from the familiar hugs of grandparents, a thousand miles from the back doors of the neighbor girls she loved like sisters.
This girl was not my idea. I was not inclined towards having children, because although I have always adored babies, children (those little people who want birthday parties and sleepovers and repeat, “watch this!” over and over and interrupt intelligent conversations to repeat their favorite lines from inane movies and litter the world with cheap plastic toys and fingernail polish) are not my strong suit.
I was a child once. And this does give me a window on my own daughter’s childhood. But just as her birth was not my idea, neither is her self. As I wrote here, she is a whirlwind of imagination and action. My child self was a model of compliance. Trying to understand her most mystifying elements through the lens of my childhood too easily leads to comparison and value judgments.
But when I remember that Luthien was never my idea, and that her continuing unfolding is not my idea, I relax a little more into the One whose bright and colorful idea she is. I support, encourage, seek to inspire, educate, discipline, celebrate and love this inexplicable human, but she is not my grand idea to be worked out precisely the way I think best.
She is the apple of my eye and the stars in my night sky, but apples don’t feed eyes and stars at night don’t keep their beholder warm. My baby, my child, my girl came from me, changed and changes me, has marked me forever – and yet, she has her own road to travel, distinct from but ever intertwined with mine.
Here’s a song I wrote in those gray weeks in June.
You are the apple of my eye
But eyes cannot eat apples
You are the stars in my night sky
But stars are too far away to keep me warm
You are my darling baby girl
And babies need their mothers
I am your faithful failing world
I rock you in my arms and cry along
A long long night
Oh will it ever end?
A hard hard fight
I wish we both could win
You are a flash of color bright
Inside a kaleidoscope
You ask me sometimes late at night
Is anybody there looking through?
You are a mirror in the woods
Reflecting all around you
You show the trees they’re looking good
But secretly you’re lonely for a face
A face of love
A face with patient eyes
A face you’ll know
From your feeling of surprise
You’re growing into summer now
You’re thirsty like a flower
With all my heart I’ll show you how
To spread your petals out and drink the rain
The rain that soaks
And chills you to the roots
But don’t lose hope
The sun will come out too.