By: Jana Greene
One little snapshot. That’s how I remember the moment. Every time I hear the trendy expression, “I love you to the moon and back,” I think about it.
My firstborn was only fourteen months old. We had just come in from a full afternoon of story time at the library and playtime at the park, our tote full of toddler books. She still had sand in the baby-crevices in her arms, and under her neck, all the cracks in her tan little body that the sun couldn’t reach but the sand always did.
She was whining and going limp, the kind of tired that she couldn’t identify, and neither could I.
When you’re a mom, you think you should be able to identify all of the cries.
I sank into the living room couch and patted my lap for her to come sit with me. Opening the canvas tote full of hard board books, I started to read from the Very Hungry Caterpillar aloud.
She collapsed to the floor, shaking her head ‘no’ for a moment, and then toddled climbed up into my lap. She took the book from my hand, dropped it to the floor, and dug into the tote for her very favorite book. It was a book by Margaret Wise Brown that we’d checked out from the library every week, even though we owned it.
She wanted to nurse, and I wanted her to be quiet. So, we made a deal.
Breastfeeding is the purest thing in the whole world. How it became more unnatural to the bottle, I will never understand. It nourishes both child and mother, and strengthens the bond. That bond comes in handy often.
With one arm I cradled her as she nursed, and with the other I flipped the cardboard pages.
“”In the great green room , there was a telephone, and a red balloon, and a picture of….” she pulled away in anticipation of the dramatic line.
“The cow jumping over the moon!” All smiles, she got her pointing finger ready.
“Can you find the bunny?” I whispered. In every picture in the story, there is a little bunny in striped pajamas, hiding among the room lit by moonrise. We had read this book a hundred times. She found the bunny with her tiny finger and smiled before going back to the breast.
“Goodnight cow jumping over the moon.”
She went back to nursing and reached her hand up to my face. And she patted my cheek gently, just as she patted the bunny in her other favorite book (title spoiler: “Pat the Bunny.”)
We were content in that moment….my little girl in her bright pink Osh-Kosh B’Gosh overalls and oversized bow in her hair. You’d better remember this moment, I told myself, for some odd reason. Remember it. You will need it when she is a teenager.
I tousled the hair at the nape of her neck, which curled up in a tiny blonde duck-tail when she played hard enough to get sweaty. She was so tiny and perfect. Neither of us had made many mistakes, but we would.
And I loved her to that big old moon and back.
Holding her tighter, I vowed that I would not forget that single unremarkable moment.
Now, twenty years later, the moon seems a paltry distance to shoot for. I get tired in ways I cannot identify, and I do a lot of whining. Sometimes I just go limp from the worry that comes with motherhood and never, ever goes away.
My Firstborn doesn’t always find the “bunny” even when I point it out to her. She has to look for it on her own. I think I knew back in that moment, that finding the bunny was the least of it. I’m so glad I have that moment burned in my mind like a star. I cannot tell you how often the bonding we did when she was a baby has come in handy!
Today, she attended church with me. When we worshipped hand-in-hand, I looked over at her and had that same spasm of love . She is taller than me now, with raven hair and those same great, green eyes. I’ve long ago accepted that I cannot identify all of her cries (nor all of my own, for that matter.)
I reached over to her and patted her cheek, very gently. Remember this, I thought.
I hope my not-so-little girl looks for God, even when He seems to be, hiding somewhere under the moonrise. He can seem as elusive as a bunny in striped pajamas, or as big and clear as a full moon.
Even when contentment doesn’t come in the cardboard pages of a toddler’s book, but in the paper-thin pages of mystical scripture. I want the Son to reach all of her, but I know she has to look for Him.
I want to remember this moment forever. One little snapshot.
Goodnight noises everywhere…..
Above the heavens, beyond the sun,
At the end of the universe,
I’ve just begun!
I love you to the moon and back,
And a million, trillion more miles than that.
And we were content in that moment, my girl and I.