This is how I count the ways that I love you. By Celeste White

Friday, Feb. 1, 2013

MotherLoadWhen I am drafting late in the evening, I stop to hear the banging in your room that is your dancing. When I beg for breaks from your 15-minute explications of language lessons and book summaries, I feel guilty when you give them to me, because the truth is that I want to hear all you have to say but I lack the capacity to keep up your pace; I get lost in your tangents, frustrated and delighted by your quick and curious mind.

I decline to frame pictures of your early childhood because though I love your face, the images break me; daughters should always be able to be held and rocked. I sneak up to the sun room windows to catch you standing in the back yard with your hands tucked in your uniform pants’ pockets, your thin arms and sharp elbows poking behind you, thinking hard, sometimes talking to yourself. I don’t correct you when you go outside in the rain at night, because I get that that’s important to your story-telling. I sneak into your room at night and kiss your temples. Despite my yelling, I do not really hate your terribly messy bedroom because I know that you have genuinely more pressing matters to attend to like World War II articles and origami. I also do not hate that you painted all over your bathroom with bright pink fingernail polish within a week of our moving in. When your new baby brother does anything new, you are my measuring stick because, secretly, I think you’re the best baby born in your year, possibly your decade.

I do not remember much before you because I was a child when I had you. You first laughed at a puppy playing in the yard. I had just turned 20. I felt fat and tired and overwhelmed and I was not always a wonderful mother. We could not pay bills so we ate a lot of carbohydrates and you spent a lot of time at the TV station with me while I worked. During night shifts, when the building was empty, you pushed studio cameras around in your walker and you pressed buttons you were not supposed to. We drove around in a 1990 Volkswagon Jetta with no air conditioning or radio and once I locked you in the car and another time I forgot to buckle you in and you fell out of your car seat when I braked for a stop sign; that last bit was terrifying because you were 9 months old and it occurred to me that you could die. When you were 2 or 3, you would make bedtime prayers last 20 minutes and who could stop you because you were listing things you loved, which included pillow cases and blocks and the way I smelled. You once called me a “magical mama” over something I did with toothpaste.

Though you are only 14, we talk about college now and, as I must do with the maternal nightmares about what horrible things are happening to you during the 15 minutes I cannot locate you, I block out the idea of my house not having you in it. When I say I will move to where you are, I am not kidding.

You are my first love and my best girl. Happy Valentine’s Day, every day.

Celeste White is a 34-year-old mother of two who practices law in Lafayette and enjoys reading and running.

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