She stands perched at the top of the slide, wind blowing her still-growing in hair, her face a mix of hesitation and longing as she watches her older sister bound up from the bottom, laughter filling the air.
She looks at me and I eagerly give my approving, encouraging nod. I am the mother—the quiet pillar of strength from which she draws. How did this happen, this transformation of self? From girl to mother, encourager of slides and small triumphs.
Slowly she lowers, the chubby indents of her knees prominent as she bends. She sits and I quickly cringe as she inches forward, hoping the splintered wood does not catch her—tarnish that baby soft skin I have kissed and cradled.
The slow inching continues, the diapered butt cushioning the slow procession.
Her sister stands at the bottom, an enthusiastic cheerleader.
There is a false start as she starts to slip; a fleeting moment of fear passes her face as she scurries back to safety. Her eyes once again find mine, searching for reassurance.
Her sister has tired of this game. Gathering flowers from the yard, she glances back at her sister, climbs up behind her, urges, prods her onward.
She is stubborn. A baby face becomes determined, silky features harden. No.
Sister is impatient. She offers her help—a gentle push—and she is off!
There is confusion, there is anger, there is wonder, there is fear, there is the start of a smile, and there it is…
She has caught her hand at the bottom, tumbling over in the dewy morning grass.
And she will come to me.
Protector of toys, mediator of playgrounds, cuddler of play babies, fixer of snacks, and this, my most coveted of titles, kisser of invisible wounds.
Her tear-stained face glistens as she reaches me, a stumbling cry, a finger outstretched in pain and hurt.
And I kiss.
I kiss my baby. I kiss away the hurt, the pain, the wounded pride. I kiss and I love.
And I marvel.
As the tears dry, the pain subsides, the hurt is forgotten, the baby grows before my eyes as she toddles towards the slide, a mission to try again written in her stride.
My heart aches for this time. For this time that is slipping from me at every moment. For this time that I can protect and heal with my love made visible.
When all it takes is a kiss to hide the wounds of the world.