I hear the front door close, then your giggle as you bounce down the steps with your friend, heading for your bikes. I smile while doing the dishes and stare out the window. So tall now, hair flowing. You don’t have to reach up for the handle bars on my big bike, it is now your size.

The time hasn’t flown by or slowed to a crawl. TIme has been just what it is. Passing. I close my eyes and imagine you on that yellow swing, the first day we took you to a playground. The two of you were so pensive, wide-eyed, not knowing what to make of anything. It was early spring, no leaves or buds on the branches yet, but the air was warm enough and the sun caressed our faces.  Your long, dark hair was woven in tight, mandatory braids framing the caramel colored skin of your four year-old face. You wanted to fly as high and as fast as you could on the swings that day. “Never stop pushing me! Higher! Higher!” You wanted to be like a little bird in the clouds, touching them, being as light as they are. Above everything.

Looking back I can only imagine the turmoil, bewilderment and confusion as you tried to wrap your thoughts and your heart around what was happening. Did you really understand we came to see if we could be your parents? Did you know that it was only a matter of time until another move, another home? Would you believe it would be forever?

It took a long time for you to believe it would last. Always waiting for the other shoe to drop, often pushing the limits as far as you could to see if I would leave you. You raged and hated and made us all know the pain of being rejected, discarded, moved from place to place with no one asking what it was that you wanted. A wild animal at times, thrashing against the bars of a cage you couldn’t escape from in a habitat you didn’t want to be in. So much to be mad about, deservedly so.

Around four years in something shifted. From pushing away to grasping, pulling, holding on for dear life. The anger slipped away and the fearful little one so long ago hidden away revealed herself, desperate to be loved and kept close. Your battered heart had thawed and slowly let us, me, in. How terrifying that must have been for you. Now instead of raging against all, you did all you could to please everyone. Suddenly you walked on glass, fearful of missteps. Now you were afraid to speak up, make a decision, choose on your own. To this day you worry about disappointing me, a people pleaser making sure others are happy.

Today you made yourself happy. It was a little hard to give up Mom and Daughter date time, but I am so proud you chose what would bring you joy today. I will still be here, always. I am glad you are able to spread your wings now, not as afraid or angry as you once were. Today I saw your confidence, maturity, trusting in yourself. I will continue to cradle that little girl inside of you, don’t worry. She is always safe with me as are you, the young woman before me.