Just last week, in the kitchen, where she was still not yet tall enough to reach the pistachios, she asks, “Where’d you guys get me?”
“From heaven,” says Ken, one room over, because he comes up with great, short answers, the kind that end in a period. Factual. Truth. A statement. My sentences end in an ellipses, always, even when I don’t want them to. I leave them – unintentionally – open for interpretation, for more questions and ponderings, continually challenging whether a new perspective might spin the truths I know onto their side, uncovering a new, different, higher number on the die.
“In a box, at the door?” she asks me, and I’m reminded that she’s still discovering her own numbers, her own set of dice.
“Well…” Another ellipsis.
There are parenting moments that hit me, every so often, when I’m smacked by the reality that I am her mother and she is my daughter and we will spend our days together doing things that mothers and daughters do. I felt it, the first time, while tying her shoes in the park. It occurred to me that this was a very motherly thing to do, that one might look in our direction and see a nurturing mother and her doting, beloved daughter. One might see a woman who, surely, ends her sentences with a period.
Back in the kitchen, I pause. Another ellipsis. I was unprepared for this conversation, one that seemed worlds away and one that bears no weight to a toddler now, but might certainly bear weight to the teen she will become, and how are we to know which conversations will settle like sediment and which will float away to the shore?
I struggle to choose my words carefully, and then I simply say some version of this:
“You came from my belly, where you grew and grew until you were big enough to join us, and now here you are, helping me with dinner and asking big questions that I won’t always answer correctly but will always try really, really hard.”
“Did my heart come in a box?” she says, as if she hadn’t heard the previous sentence, as if she’s already wandered further down the road of her own path, in search of daisies.
“No, your heart came from God,” I say, and I realize, it was a statement. It was a sentence that ended in a period, because there was no doubt in my mind, there was never a doubt in my mind.
And then she scampered to the dining room, her stuffed panda in hand, her dotted blanket trailing behind. She was comfortable and secure in that answer, for now, and it was almost as if we both silently agreed that she’d keep asking more. She must always keep asking more.
I remember a moment when she was a fussy baby – not yet a year – where the only thing that promised to settle her in the morning was a quiet voice, softly pointing out objects: desk, chair, art, vase, bottle, dish, pillow. We’d make our way throughout the home – my finger pointing, her eyes searching – and when I arrived in the living room, I paused.
Is it a couch or a sofa? Do I teach her the term I was raised to know – couch – or the term I had come to find out was a more proper, polished version of the same word?
And it seemed so big. It seemed so life-altering in those days, when choices stacked upon each other like the towered blocks we’d build in the afternoon sun. Would one choice make the tower fall?
Would one ellipsis, one pause, one doubt, one missed opportunity, one wrong answer – would one anything cause everything to crumble to the ground? Would I ruin Rome in a day?
Of course not, I have come to believe. Of course it will not crumble, unless it does, and we will never know whether the crumbling was our doing, or something else. Who’s to say what was designed to fall, or what was simply left untreated, unprotected in one small area?
But in those weighty newborn moments, I could not have known. I still cannot know, even now, less than three years in, what the future will hold for a mother, her daughter – this family – with a couch-or-is-it-sofa and an inquiring mind.
And so, perhaps my ellipsis is the best thing I can offer. Perhaps the only answer I can give, in her moments of questioning, is an “I don’t know.” An “I’m not sure.” A “Let’s try and figure it out together.”
Why is the sky blue? Dot dot dot.
Why do bad things happen? Dot dot dot.
Will you always be here for the asking? Yes. Yes, of course I will.