I get home at midnight and she’s awake at three a.m., crying for me. When I appear, rumpled and half-asleep, she’s all hi, Mama and come give me a kiss. Of course I oblige her, snuggling down next to her before I leave to bring her goldfish crackers and water.
I’m so happy to see you, Mama.
I’m so happy to see you, too.
In the morning, she perches on the bathroom counter to brush her teeth. My makeup, hastily unpacked the night before, sits next to us, and as she spots it, her eyes light up.
Can I have the eyelashes? she asks. Haha, she says, I called it eyelashes.
She means eyeshadow, and we share her joke. When she laughs, her cheeks pull up into dimples and her nose wrinkles like a rabbit’s. My sweet bunny.
Of course, I say.
Of course, she parrots back at me.
I pull out a q-tip and shimmery compacts of gold and pink and bronze, and let her spin the cotton into the colors. She goes so quiet on the counter, there, so still with concentration as she applies makeup to her eyes. Sparkly white on her brow bones, candy pink across her lids. Her eyelashes tremble. She blinks at herself in the mirror, approved.
Are you ready? I ask. Quiet, reverent. And I remember the conversations we have often, now, where she says, I’m a big girl, Mama, but I’ll always be your baby, too. I take a measure of all the minutes where she is still this little. There are not enough of them, I fear. My mama-heart squeezes tight.
Yes, I’m ready.
And so we go, wearing our pretty faces out to meet the day. She wraps her fingers in mine as we climb down the stairs together. I will hold her hand for as long as she will let me.