Sometimes there is fire in her eyes the color of her hair. A low burning red. You wouldn’t have known it 26 months and 15 days ago when she came whispering into the world at that quiet hour of the morning when day’s light is only an expectation.
I worried then that she would be the one that wouldn’t fight, that she would be the one that I had to fight for. Sweetness dripped down like grace and there wasn’t a living thing in the world that didn’t receive it. I knew I would fight for her.
If fighting means tears and prayers and backup plans, then that is what I’m doing. She is just two and I’ve done two before, you know? It’s when the fire leaps like a thrashing that I forget who I am. I forget who she is.
I forget that I’m big and she’s small, that I know better and she is getting there. I forget that some of that fire came from me and I struggle too with self control and frustration and selfishness. I will be her reference for how she bears burdens and gains freedoms.
I forget that she is new here. She is new and she is not like me in so many ways. Sometimes she speaks so softly that I think she is finally telling me the secret of where she came from. Then there are times when she twirls all reckless, her face abandoned to joy, and I swear I have never seen anything so brave.
There are days when I’m afraid. I hear my voice, angry because I just don’t know what to do. Why won’t she listen to me? I can see myself. Brows furrowed, mouth turned down and I know I will regret angry words. I do even as I speak them, and I am already wondering how to make up for it just as I feel my grip loosening on that slippery fruit, patience. And what does a two year old know about pressure, anyway-that hand that holds me down lest I get one single thing wrong and scar her for life?
That’s when she turns to me and extends what only a passionate little heart can. Joy answers my repentant request and all of a sudden I know that fiery tantrums are weakness and joy is her lucky strength. The hand is gentle now, more of a help. I see all that I’ve done wrong and know that love fills in gaps and makes things whole. And right.
I don’t want to put out the fire-not this fire. She needs it like joy running wild. When joy collects full in her eyes I am thankful for the fire that gives her this ability. It’s a gift not given to those of more even temperaments, I think. Or maybe it’s something that some of us lose along the way, like the low grade pressure of river running over rock.
She smiles the same now as she did when she first won us, with eyes tight slits and mouth wide as pure joy. I can see that that kind of smile is reserved for those with the fire to fight for it. So on those days when I feel like beating a quick retreat from the blaze, I will try to be that mom again, willing to fight for joy alongside my kid. Joy is a worthy prize for some.