They sat on the floor near the dollhouse I’d carefully chosen for Amelia’s second birthday, playing a matching game, putting together a puzzle and chatting. I sat nearby, as I always do, close enough for comfort, but not too close as to cause a distraction, my ears half-listening to their conversation.
Twenty minutes before, I’d watched her happily identify each of the planets on my iPad, squealing, giggling, clapping her hands and jumping at each image as it appeared.
I giggled whenever she got to “Uranus,” for obvious reasons.
And now, they were counting, “One, two, free, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, TEN!” Ten was met with a burst of applause and a butt-shaking dance, because sometimes, that’s how counting makes you feel. I smiled to myself. I do the applause and butt-shake whenever I’m about to eat an Uncrustables. Or find a new flash mob video. Or vacuum.
Then, they were done.
“Amelia has made incredible progress. What do you think about going down to twice-monthly speech therapy?” Her teacher addressed me now, as Amelia busily got her “MIMI’S Froggie Boots” on.
Words failed to form. I simply nodded.
Whenever I stopped to think about the road we’ve traveled, the one rife with uncertainties, “what-if’s,” “could be’s,” and “maybe’s,” I am overwhelmed. A sweet-and-sour mixture of joy and sorrow; happiness and guilt.
And I am, once again, thankful for everything she has taught me, just as I’m thankful for everything my children have taught me.
From Ben, I learned to become truly responsible for another. He taught me to see beauty in the smallest of things, from a garbage can to Jupiter and it’s moons. I found out just how far I would go to do right for someone else, and I’ve learned to accept people as they are, not as I want them to be.
From Alex, I learned what unconditional love felt like. He was the first person I’d known who loved me simply because. Alex taught me that I was a good mother. From him too, I learned to appreciate how far I’d come. I’d gone from that scared, single mother, the load on her shoulders heavy, praying I’d do right by my firstborn, to the luxury of simply reveling in my new baby.
It’s from Amelia, though, the one with curls like a halo, that I’ve learned the most. Maybe it’s because she’s my clone, looks and personality alike, or maybe it’s because the road we’ve traveled in the past two years has always been rocky, uncertain and scary.
From Amelia, I’ve learned that it is possible to be shattered in a few short moments, by a couple of words, a terrible diagnosis. I also learned that this kind of fragmentation gives you a chance to start again; slowly picking up the pieces of your former life, discarding what you no longer need, adding what you do. All of those fragments of who you were and who you are will be pieced back together through time and love, and the cracks?
The cracks are where the light gets in.
Amelia has taught me to face my dragons head-on, even when the outcome was uncertain: sometimes you slay the dragon, sometimes the dragon slays you. But you can’t run forever.
She’s found Mimi’s Froggie Boots and appropriately cheered, “YAY! I DID IT!” when she managed to put them on “by myself.”
I grabbed my keys and we were out the front door, on the way to preschool. When we got to the edge of the stoop, where she considers the step down treacherous, she automatically raised her hand to mine and asked, “MIMI’S HAND?”
I held out my hand, marveling at how how someone so small, someone with hands like tiny birds, could have an impact so large.
Firmly holding my hand, Mimi lead me into the future.