Five fingers

Sometimes when I go to my daughters’ room to feed my baby in the evening, my elder girl is not yet asleep, or rouses enough to engage in whispered conversation. As I sit on the rocking chair, nursing my tiny fierce baby back to sleep, a little hand snakes out from the bed next to me. As rhythmic sucks grow slower and eyes grow heavier, my big-hearted big girl gently strokes my hand and I do the same to her. My heart melts a little as I sit there, pinned down by so much unbearable need and unqualified love. Sometimes I cannot help but whisper what is on my mind – “I love you more than anything”. This evening the whispered reply came: “I do too mummy. I love you too much. I love you so much I think my heart might break.” Her unconditional innocent love is so beautiful and powerful it actually hurts a little.

I was going to write, tonight, about stereotypes. It was going to be witty, thoughtful, even a bit political. I was planning what I would say as I stood in the shower. But I find myself writing about love instead.

I have not had an easy week. Sleep has been hard to come by, sudden inexplicable sadness has been a frequent visitor and I have found myself snapping more than is usual or necessary. So there was a degree of annoyance when I stepped out of the shower, still dripping, to be greeted by my wet-cheeked, whimpering daughter, eyes bright with tiny tears.

As I sat down to feed her, I looked down at her hand, five fat fingers placed firmly on my breast. And again, my heart melted. Those fingers poke, prod, fiddle, scratch, all day long and most of the night. Here they were, still, just in that moment. Holding me close not out of desperate need this time, nor pulling and pinching, but anchoring her where she belonged. After a few moments, her hand moved up and down. Not frantically as it so often is, not violently, but a warm, gentle, and oh so soft stroke. She too was telling me how much she loved me.

I need moments like this when the days are long  and the nights seemingly endless, when my girls take it in turns to challenge me in new and imaginative ways. The funny thing about love is it doesn’t ever run out. Great big undiscovered wellsprings of it lurk underneath, just waiting for the right trigger. In this case, five fingers, twice over. One set slender, covered in marks of unknown origin, nails bitten to the quick. One set fat and short and soft and squidgy. Both with more power than their owners’ may ever know.

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