"Did you love me when I was a twinkle?"
"Oh baby. I've loved you longer than that."
I loved her before I knew she'd ever exist. If I had ever thought to imagine a daughter, my daughter, Elizabeth would be she. I'm not sure I can put into words how very much I love her. And how very much she fascinates me.
"Why are those people staring at me?"
"Probably because you're staring at them."
"No. It's because I'm so cute."
How did I end up with a girly girl? She's a little dynamo who picks out my clothes and my shoes, frowning over my hair. She sits and brushes it smooth for me, patiently parting it on the side. She insists on wearing what she wants to wear when she wants to wear it and Lord help anyone who gets in her way.
I tell her she's not just cute. She's smart and kind and compassionate. She looks at me, shakes her head and says, "I know that."
"Are you cold?"
"I'll warm you up."
I grinned as she put her little arms around my upper thighs trying to rub some warmth into me. "Is that better?" she asked, smiling up at me.
"I am so warm now!"
She's a little mother. That same part of her that takes care of her babies, takes care of me, her brother and her father and everyone who comes into her world. She covers me with blankets when I'm sick. She rubs Joseph's arm after his doctor's appointments. She plays with Chad's ears while snuggling up to him.
Every ounce of her is filled with warmth and love. I can't get enough of her kisses, of her hugs. She loves without reservation, without hesitation. I fear the hurt I know she'll experience and pray that her strength will get her through it because that kind of love should never be tempered.
Then I remind myself she's not just a bundle of tulle and fairy wings, she is fierce.
I watched as Aunt Melissa chased Elizabeth with two pool noodle light sabers. Elizabeth took a half step back and then, even though Melissa is twice, almost three times her size, she attacked. Her eyes narrowed, her lips pursed, and in the end, Melissa retreated from the bombarding lunges and feints.
Elizabeth turned with a smile, "I win!"
She attacks life, jumping off ever higher steps, leaping into the air, begging me to push her higher on the swing. She walks on the balance beam, grinning as she holds her arms to her sides. She scales the climbing walls while my heart stops and my hands reach out to catch her if she falls. And yet, she doesn't. She's sure and quick and fearless.
It's been a rough year for my princess. She's had stitches, she's fighting Valley Fever, she's moved homes, she's adjusted to splitting her time between two houses. And through it all, she remains her confident, happy self, with just enough of a dimpled grin to turn those of us who are supposed to be setting the rules into piles of mush.
How lucky am I that the Universe gave me Elizabeth. No mother could ask for a more amazing daughter.