I can’t tell you how many times I hear the Lost in Translation quote in my head. It doesn’t sound like the movie, it sounds like a dear friend of mine from my First Real Job at Portland Public Schools; “But they learn how to walk, and they learn how to talk… and you want to be with them. And they turn out to be the most delightful people you will ever meet in your life.”
Jenna told me this when her own baby was only a few years old. I remember so vividly because I hadn’t had children yet, but the idea stuck with a tar-like dignity that warms in the sun on certain occasions.
Tonight was such an occasion.
The nine year old girl had asked for some time to take a bath; a legitimate luxury given the schedule most days. Tonight was a fine night to do so, so we answered with a “Of course!” like any parent who can finally grant their child’s ridiculously small wishes.
About thirty minutes later I sing-sang up to her that it is time to get out and hello, was it me she was looking for?
Then I started writing her pretend letters verbally, when I didn’t find her again.
“Dear Lolo, I’m in the bathroom where you just were. I hope you are ok. Love, Mommy.”
“Dear, Lolo, I am almost done cleaning up the bathroom where you just were. I hope you are in your room but have not heard anything. Love, Mommy.”
Silence. Maybe some nose laughter.
I continue with my nightly OCD, “Dear Lolo, I’m done with the bathroom and I’m concerned I have not heard from you. I might even clean the toilet. Love, Mommy.”
She appears in the doorway, filling it more than I remember her tiny self doing so, and laughs. She was, apparently, plugging her nose so she wouldn’t laugh so loudly that I could hear her. She thought my letters to her were hilarious. I am glad because I was nearing the brink of sanity. Or at least, the end of my todo list in the bathroom.
We continue on like this for thirty minutes or so while the boys play some rolling-ball game in the living room. I echo a letter to her, she replies back to me in kind. We “verbally write” each other various letters. At one point she forgets to sigh her “letter” and I “write back” with, “Dear Lolo, you know, it’s polite to sign one’s letters with love, so and so.” She replies, “Dear Mommy, sorry, I forgot. Love, Lolo.”
We giggle as we compile these letters to each other in the air.
I am astonished at how big, how human, how.. grown up she is.
I can barely contain tears when I hug her at last laughing, “We make great pen-pals!” She laughs, not seeing my wet eyes, “Yup! We’re very good at yelling.”
I can not believe how this baby, toddler, preschooler, challenging every step of the way, this person, turned in to, well, a person. She is all that I would ever want in a nearly-tween and more. She is a most loving kid, subject to moodiness and hanger, (hungry anger) and wisdom and ridiculousness. She is kind hearted and smart and witty. She loves her brother with ferocity. And yet, she keeps a sense of herself amidst the structure of life; this free spirit that I’ve always known since the minute she produced herself to the world. She is, and forever shall be, her own self. And by god I love that kid. That human. That person. With a tenacious ferocity of its own. Letter writing could never convey the magnificence of it all. But I still think she understood, and even wrote me back.
I love you biggest of all the loves in the world.