If you press me to say why I loved him, I can say no more than because he was he, and I was I. ~ Michel de Montaigne
It’s bedtime. Brooke’s room is dark, but for the bluish stars that glow on the walls and the ceiling, cast by Barbie the Turtle.
We are lying on the floor. She has declared that this is where she will sleep tonight. I wonder if she’s protecting herself. If maybe, despite not having the words to tell me, she really did have the seizure that I suspected last night. If perhaps she feels safer here on the floor.
I decide to stop overthinking it.
We do the tappies. One for every year, then one for good luck. The eleventh is what it always is – a hand on her face.
She asks, as she does every night, “How’d you do eleven?” and I answer, as I do every night, “In yo’ mush.”
She giggles, as she always does, and asks, as she does every night, “What’s my mush?”
I answer, just as I always do, “Your face.”
We do our kissing hands, then one last kiss and a long, squeezy hug.
The routine is done. We both know it’s time for me to go. I don’t move.
She asks a question I’ve never heard before.
“Why do you love me?”
This isn’t in the script. Nor any script that I know of. For all of the incredible progress that she’s made with asking questions, whys are still rare. This is big.
“Oh, baby,” I say, “there are so many reasons that I love you. Want me to tell you some of them?”
She pulls my arm across her chest and tucks it under her chin, then murmurs, “Uh huh.”
“I love you because I was born to love you. Because I was made to be your mama and loving you is like breathing – it’s just what I do. And I love you because you’re funny and smart and kind and because you make the whole world better just by being in it. I love you because you change people — you show them how to be better — to love better and live better and be better friends to each other. But really I love you because you are an incredible kid and I couldn’t be prouder that you’re mine.”
I’m amazed that she’s still with me. That she hasn’t balked at too many words, too much emotion … too much.
But she hasn’t retreated an inch. She’s here.
“So why do you love me?” I ask.
She’s looking away from me, but I can hear the smile in her answer. “Because you’re my mama, silly.”
She yanks my arm, taking me with her as she rolls onto her side. I let myself curl around her like a spoon.
We both know it’s time for me to go.
I don’t move.