So often I find myself feeling as if I am reaching out for Esmé, trying so desperately to grasp ahold of her, trying to understand something more, I don’t know, solid? about who she is.
I find it difficult to explain how it could be that I know so little about my daughter… In a way I know more about her friend at school who explained to me the elaborate evolution of her favorite colors and how she feels about Darth Vadar.
At the same time, know Esmé better than I’ve ever known anyone else in the world.
I suppose there is a science to it…science learns through proving what isn’t just as much as proving what is. And so, through my missed connections with Esmé, I have begun to somehow circumscribe an area of “things we know about Esmé.”
There is a science to it.
There is also poetry to it.
As I rock her at night I run my hands across the sheets of muscle on her back. Not long ago here she was nothing more than bone and skin, but now I can follow the tiny waves of muscle where they fan out, one over the other. I pass my fingers over her hair, finding the strands caught together in a fading, flattened curl. The smell of her hair reminds me of sunshine and grass. I can predict each breath, each twitch that runs through her limbs as she rests her full weight against me.
Her body is more familiar than my own. I know her.
I really know her.
But this night, she wants to tell me more. She wants me to know what she is thinking about. She lifts her head, squints at me in the dark, wrinkling her nose, and carefully pronounces “Ah baba thithsss” and then, after a beat, “Nah gab baba, lithsss. Nie.” She buries her head against my chest for a moment and then, lifting her head, states, “Blllab ahba ahba.” She nods at me as she says it–as if to say “There’s no way you didn’t understand that, right?”
These sounds aren’t like the streams of babble I hear so often–a stream I know contains meaning, if only I could know where to begin breaking it apart, dissecting it into the meanings I know are hidden within…
Tonight these carefully annunciated sounds have clear beginnings and ends. They are most certainly attempts at telling me something. We’ve have very few break throughs with this sort of thing since the night she told me “Night night.” But still, I often feel as if the thinnest veil separates the meaning of her words from me–if only I can grasp ahold of it and lift it until I can see them clearly.
I think she’s talking about Yo Gabba Gabba–but I don’t want to tease her with the idea of her favorite show so late at night, in case I am wrong. Since one of her hands is dancing along the seam of her blanket, lifting it up as she speaks, I decide to start there.
“Ez, very nice words. Are you talking about your blanket? I heard you say a ‘b’ sound, buh, buh, blanket. Blanket starts with ‘b’.” After a pause I say, “Can you say blanket?”
She considers it for a minute, “Bah ah kha.”
She lowers her head into my neck while I praise her, “Good job, sweetheart. Blanket, bah, bah Blanket. Try again.”
She lifts her head back up, “Bah ah lash.” We repeat, this time she pronounces, “Bah ahahTah”
“Great job, Ez,” I say. “Your words are really good. I’m so proud of you. What else do you want to tell me?”
She looks at me and says, clearly, “Gab-ba-ba.”
At this point it is undeniable, so I respond, “Did you say Yo, Gabba Gabba?” She smiles. “Well, our Yo Gabba Gabba friends are asleep now.”
She say, “Mamam, Asch abba gabba, nah nah, ah.”
“Ez,” I ask, “Who is your favorite Yo Gabba Gabba friend?”
“Lah, ah, abback. Asch.”
“DJ Lance Rock?” I guess, based on the “l” sound. She smiles, looking at me steadily for a moment.
Then she nuzzles her head into my shoulder, and then she is silent. Her breathing slows. I think she has drifted off to sleep. I am wrong about that, but for perhaps fifteen minutes we sit there, still and silent.
I continue meditatively tracing the geography of her back.
The only thought in my head: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.