It happened last week. We sat on the bathroom floor together. She squirmed in my lap, and pulled off her socks one by one. And I picked out the only color I had…for a brand-new two-year-old: light pink.
The novelty of nail-polish, Mom’s nail-polish, kept her little feet squirming. I tried to steady them in my hand, and even when I’d whisper in her ear, “Hold still,” her toes still wiggled a little bit. I carefully painted the pretty color on each tiny toenail. Amazed at how small each one was. And as I did, something happened.
Something happens the first time you paint her toenails. It only happens between mothers and daughters I am sure. I can barely name it. But as I painted her nails, I felt I was doing something much more grand, and I think she felt it, too.
It was almost too delicate to put into words. But it was as if I were showing her, her wings. Showing her the way to beauty. And soon tears filled my eyes. It was as if I realized all at once–she was going to grow up into a woman.
I can see her sitting before me in a white gown before the ceremony. And I’m buttoning silk buttons long all the way up her back. I’m helping her pin up long, loose wisps of curls. I’m down on the ground, painting her toenails…and remembering: this. This day, when I first painted her nails, when they were so tiny. And her feet squirmed. And her toes wiggled. And I will want to take her in my arms and whisper once more in her ear, “Hold still.”
I push the thought away, of the day she will fly away from home forever. And who will she fly with? It pushes back. Who would ever be worthy?
I see the way she already wins attention: effortlessly. Her bright blonde hair, and big ocean eyes, her long dark eyelashes, and pixie-like features. I know she already is: a beauty. A creature like I’ve never seen.
Yesterday, a little boy in the booth behind us, would not stop standing up and calling for her attention. She turned, and stood, too. And then they just smiled at each other six inches from one another’s face. He reached out one finger, just wanting to touch her. And she reached hers back. They both giggled when their fingertips touched. Was this toddler love?
I think mothers see it long before we ever want to admit. The grandeur of raising a daughter. Of raising up beauty, in it’s purest form. A beauty that will one day take on a life of her own, and find the comfort of another man’s arms. A man who will never seem worthy of her…
Only because you saw her, in a way he never has. You saw her at her most delicate state. You cradled her when she was just a fragile bundle on your chest. You rocked her long hours in the night, and let her tears bleed into your shirt. And you remember the first time you painted her toenails. And the way you trembled at the beauty of this little girl. And tremble still.
And you will cry, with hot tears streaming down, not because of how beautiful she looks that day. But because of how beautiful she has looked every day since the day she was born.