There is an emotion that came to me new with motherhood. It’s not just happiness or joy you feel as you marvel at this human being before you that began as a cell in your womb. It’s not quite pride because it doesn’t necessarily accompany any grand accomplishment or milestone. It comes suddenly in moments and leaps into your heart until it is painfully full. It is difficult to define and yet I try to tell her often. “I am delighted with you.” Delight.
Delight, however filling, is inherently in need of at least one other spectator to be complete. It’s like when I watched Audrey suddenly get up on the little stage at Barnes and Noble and sing and “tap dance” to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in front of a crowd of people. Delight. But then also- looking around to see who could share this moment with me. And it’s like when she says something after which I ask, “What did you say?” Like when I asked her once what she was getting- thinking she was doing something she wasn’t supposed to and she answered, “Stickers!” and then rolling her eyes slightly, “Oh for God’s sake…” I had to reenact it later hoping someone would catch how delightful it was. Or when I ask rhetorically at dinner one night…”What is God up to Audrey?” and she answers, “I think he’s takin’ a rest because he’s tired after all that…creating and every-ting…” Ah. No one here. I will write it down in the quaint book for quotes such as this given to me by a friend. I will write it down though it will never be exactly as it was in that moment.
The last moment of shared delight in our daughter that we had was shortly before you left us. The three of us were reading bedtime stories on our bed and Audrey hadn’t said many, if any, two syllable words yet. Then while reading about the color purple, she did it…”Po pul” and at the exact same moment, we turned to each other with a jolt and wide eyes. It was a moment I hope I always remember. There have though, been so many more moments that begged for this common reaction since you left, and instead I get the heartsink. “You would love this,” I think. And it doesn’t seem fair at all that I get to see it and you don’t.
There is another D word that I also never felt fully until motherhood. It’s what we both felt when a crazy lady in a Mexican restaurant where we were having lunch, Audrey asleep in her stroller, told us to please “remove your child from here- I don’t like children.” It’s what I felt recently when a little girl in Audrey’s class started punching her in the stomach out of nowhere while they were in line to wash their hands the day I was cooping at her school. It’s also what I feel when there’s a show or story that focuses on a daughter’s relationship with her father and I watch Audrey’s eyes so carefully.
Defend. I want to protect her and be the one who comes to her defense, but it feels so wrong without you here to defend along with me. After the punching incident, I imagine what you would have said…how angry you would’ve been and I imagine you without a doubt, approaching that little girls’ father at school, and maybe even Audrey’s teacher to make sure it was known how unhappy you were about it. I did not do those things. I worry that I won’t do as good of a job defending as you might have. I wish you were here with me. It hurt to see our little girl take those sudden punches. I almost cried myself as she cried in my arms and every other little girl in her class came by with empathetic looks and offered her hugs.
Many people love Audrey- her grandparents on both sides certainly do delight in her. But most of the time, they’re not here during those unexpected, “Po pul,” moments…and- they’re not you- her father.
I think the Holy Trinity- is starting to make a little bit more sense. To truly delight in or defend one person, you absolutely need- another person.