A cold February morning. We rush downstairs, panting. We don't want to be late for your class. I take us to the alley behind the building, put our recycle in the bin. You wait for me, standing by the corner. I take your cold little hand, and we walk to the music store. We push the heavy door and step into the store. Your piano teacher greets us, I take your coat off, you take your book and run to the magic half hour you will spend inside the black and white notes. I open my own book, and for 25 minutes lose myself in a faraway world, my body in the store, my mind somewhere else. I hear some people entering and exiting the store, but their voices come as if from a different room. Just as I finish a chapter, you run out of your classroom, I talk with your teacher about your progress, he tells me what your homework for the week is, and we are off.
Holding my hand, you wait impatiently for the traffic light to turn green. "When will it say 'go?'" you ask. We run across the street and rush our bodies into the warmth of the coffee shop. You get your favorite chocolate milk, me my medium roast. We find two empty chairs in the long table, sit down. You drink your chocolate milk and watch the world around you with big, curious eyes. I sip my coffee, try to read some more, then give up (I can never read well in cafes anyway). When you are done with your drink, I take out some coloring books and pencils. You color slowly and deliberately, humming something to yourself, while I people watch and enjoy the bitterness of the pure black coffee (no cream, no sugar).
Time slows down, people come, people go. We sit there, watching, lingering. We are not in a hurry. It is one of those rare, luxurious moments in which we can afford to linger, to stay a bit more, to let time stretch on into the gooey oddness of aafternoon.
When you start fidgeting in your seat, I finish up my coffee. You insist on doing everything yourself, of course, and put on your coat and hat. We step out into the cold February afternoon. "To the bookstore!" you yell, with the certainty of a captain giving orders on where his ship will turn to next.
All of a sudden, you turn to me and say "I love feeling cold, mom." What a marvelous thing it is, to be able to actually notice all the little sensations that visits one in a single day, to feel life so fully, to completely lose yourself in the moment and live each moment as if you were experiencing it for the first time. I envy that a little. I have lost that magical ability, little girl, and I now take everything for granted. Yes, it is amazing to be able to feel the cold air on my face, after the stuffy air of the enclosed box that is the coffee shop. Yes, it is amazing to truly feel something, anything.
We cross the street back to the other side, you run ahead of me and yell "It's open, yay!" with that pure joy in your eyes, and we once more seek refuge from the cold, this time inside this magical, heavenly space that embraces us with its smells, sights and sounds.
You browse the picture books, I browse the paperback pile by the stairs.. You plop into your favorite comfy chair, scanning the pages and trying to build the storyline in your mind. You are five and on the verge of reading, but the words and sentences have not fully opened up their secrets to you just yet. You eventually come to me and ask me to read the book to you. I smile, and oblige.
After some time, you start running up and down the stairs. You start disappearing between the stacks. I know this game, and I can't not play along. You love to play hide-and-seek in the nooks and crannies of the used bookstore, getting deliberately lost and letting out a squeal of delight when I find you. The energy of growth in you compels you to run, to move, to get lost, to want to be found and then start all over again. It's so marvelous, so amazing to see.
You are five years old, and your memories have just started to etch themselves into your mind. I cannot help but wonder...What will you remember from all this? When you are a young woman trying to look back into the past and try to retrieve moments of happiness like fishing out small glistening pearls from the bottom of the sea...When you look back into your childhood, what will you remember? What will you see there, in the mirror of memory?
Will you remember the smell of coffee, and how the gray February day is reflected in the windows? Will you remember the mysterious smell of the used bookstore, a mixture of incense sticks, old books, and dusty curtains? Will you remember the way your fingers moved on the piano, trying to bring together a melody? Will you remember how you fill pages with colors? Will you remember holding my hand and walking on the street? Will you remember looking at the bare tree branches and noticing how they stand against the sky? Will you remember walking to a side street and checking out a little fairy house, complete with little doors, staircases and a castle tower?
In that future, where you are a fully grown, adult woman, what will you see when you look back, my little girl? Will you see happiness? Will you see love?
Love you forever, and always.
February 21, 2016