I have been telling the following story to anyone who will listen. I tell it for two reasons. First, I want to remember it forever, and I hope that by telling it over and over again, I will brand it into my brain for eternity. Second, it’s a really great story that I know people will love to hear. But something completely unexpected has arisen in my telling it.
Very few things are sweeter than the kiss of a toddler coupled with a truly adoring, “I love you.” Any parent would likely agree. Sarah did that the other day with a kiss on my cheek. And this time, she decided to add something to it. She told me to close my eyes, and she softly kissed each eyelid one by one. She kissed my right cheek again. She kissed my left. She kissed my forehead and then pulled back, studied me for a short moment to figure out what else she could kiss, and then moved in to kiss my chin. She kissed my lips. She pulled back once more, looked at my face, giggled, and moved in to get under my chin and kiss my neck. Proud of all she’d uncovered that could be kissed on my face, she sat back nearly triumphantly and smiled. She then moved her hands around and across the space just in front of my face as if to scoop up something from the air and said, “OK Mommy, now wrap them all up and put them in your pocket so you can give them to your friends all day.” I melted.
I told this story to two colleagues later that morning and got the reaction you’d expect. They laughed. They oooh’d. They aaah’d. They agreed that was one of the most priceless toddler tales they’d heard. And I gave them each a kiss from my pocket. It was a good day.
I came home that night and told Brian. I told my Mom on the phone the next time we spoke. I told my best friend. I even told some strangers in the weeks that followed. I kept telling the story with the intention of blazing it into my brain, so I would never ever forget the sweetness and the feeling I had had in that moment. I even wondered what could possibly beat this story. It occurred to me that I might have already experienced my very best moment with Sarah, and I wanted to savor it for all eternity. Then it hit me. What was my very best moment with Catherine? What had happened that I wanted to savor for all eternity? Did we even have one? Or was it still waiting for us?
That stumped me. And my heart sank. I couldn’t think of anything.
What was my very best moment with Catherine? Did I have one? Facing that question made my stomach ache. Surely I must. But nothing came to mind immediately so I beat myself up for not spending enough time with her and not doing enough with her. I kept driving wondering what it might be or when it would happen or if it ever would happen. That was not a good day.
My stomach woke up. I felt excitement. And a picture floated to mind of when Catherine was also a toddler – possibly two or three, I’d have to look it up, and she sat on my legs and did squats. This little girl who never would walk according to the medical community sat astride my thigh and did squats with a perfectly straight back and powerful legs. Over and over and over again.
As soon as I remembered that and felt the excitement, another memory overwhelmed me. She was much younger. I was struggling to figure out how she communicated. A teacher in our home suggested I bounce her on my knee for a bit, stop, wait and see what Catherine did. I followed her guidance exactly, and Catherine arched her back. Over and over again, she arched her back whenever I stopped bouncing her. She wanted more! My little girl who was “unable to communicate,” was talking with me in her own special way.
So now I have two. Which one is our very best moment? The one I want to hold with me for all eternity? I can’t decide.