Leta has recently stolen three of my delicious lip glosses, the pineapple, lime and mango-flavored ones, and this morning she begged me to let her wear the dress with the pockets so that she could take one to school and keep it with her all day. I think several of her friends are also into lip gloss, and just yesterday when I dropped her off she ran right up to one of Her Kids, as she likes to call them, and they immediately starting applying a stick of lip gloss to one another. Yeah, not so sanitary, I guess, and maybe I could have tackled them both before they shared saliva, but considering the gigantic worms of green snot I’ve seen smeared across the faces of certain kids in her class I’m thinking, shit, she hasn’t contracted The Typhoid yet, you go right ahead and share those germs. If you start sucking on each other’s noses, well then, we’ll have a little talk.
The previous day as we were walking to the car after school she spotted a discarded red Twizzler on the ground in the parking lot and headed straight for it going, OOOH! And I was all, look, I may be Southern, but I am not that Southern, don’t you even think about putting that in your mouth. And she said, why? And I said because that is just gross. And she said, you mean like Daddy’s toots? And I said, exactly!
So we’re in the car this morning, and she’s in the back seat applying half the tube of lime-flavored lip gloss to her face, only occasionally on her lips, and she starts asking about where people live. Where does Grandmommy live? How about Papaw? And after we get through the list of the whole family she asks if I have always lived in Salt Lake City. And it’s just so weird that she can conceptualize enough to even consider that I might have lived elsewhere. It struck me really hard this morning that here I am having a multi-level conversation with my daughter, my very adorable daughter whose cheeks are covered in an inch-thick crust of lime lip gloss.
I remember when I used to wonder what her voice would sound like when she learned how to talk.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been going through collections of old photos from the first years of her life, or perhaps it’s because the anniversary of my stay in a mental hospital is this month, but this morning I felt like I needed to say something to someone out there who may need to hear this right now like I did so badly back then: it gets so much better.
In fact, better is not even a word that can do it justice. There are very simple times that I’m with her, when I’m brushing her hair or watching her read herself a book on her bed, when the feeling that comes over me is not unlike how it was when I was a kid walking through the gates at an amusement park knowing that I was going to have the most awesome, most memorable day. And it’s not the feeling of riding the roller coaster or being allowed to eat an entire bag of cotton candy, it’s the feeling before all that. It’s the excitement, the anticipation, the general sense of being in one of my favorite places.
When Leta was born I thought I would automatically feel this way, and many women do. But I did not. And I did not know if I would ever get here. So many women reached out to me to let me know they had gone through the same crisis and came out the other side, and it was the hope they gave me that pulled me through. If you happen to be in that place right now, I want you to know that it gets so much better. And one day you’re going to be having a complex conversation with that baby who is screaming her head off right now, and you’re going to go, holy shit, I made it. You will make it.