she curls her body beside me, her cold feet resting on my legs between the warmth of the blanket and my skin.
“i just want some mommy and me time,” she says.
it’s always before bed — right before she knows she has to go to sleep. as a baby, she never fought the nighttime or naps. when she was tired, she slept. on the bed, on the chair on the floor — wherever. now, this older version of her clings to the daylight like a lifesaver. to sleep is to admit defeat.
i sigh and let her in. five minutes, i tell her.
we watch tv, quiet and close. she rests her hand on my hand, her head on my chest and she breathes. i listen to the sound and feel her weight against me, struck by how quickly time passes.
she’s smart. frighteningly so. not like her brother, who has my emotion but his dad’s brains. where the boys are mechanically inclined — they can mentally take apart machines and easily think of ways to improve the design — my girl and i, we aren’t that kind of intelligent.
we dissect people, situations, social interactions. we ruminate and meticulously construct just the right way to say something before we speak. we think abstractly on love, life, universality.
she’s five, but you wouldn’t know it. age means nothing with her thoughts.
“what’s that?” she asks, pointing to the tv.
“oh,” i say and pause. “well, that’s a brain.” i explain why the surgeons are operating, and what role the brain has to a person or animal. without it, i say, you couldn’t speak anymore, as is the problem with the girl in the show.
she asks how a person’s speech is regulated by the brain — she thought the vocal chords took care of that. once again, she has awed me.
“yes, the vocal chords allow you to speak in the same way that your muscles allow your arm to move,” i explain. “but without the brain function, the body doesn’t DO anything.”
she thinks on this. i can see the wheels turning.
“so,” she wonders aloud, “the person can’t even THINK without a brain? but their body … would still be alive?” she’s not misunderstanding the brain’s role in thinking — she’s scared of the possibility that she could one day not think.
the realization that when we die, we no longer think — EXIST — hit me when i was close to her age and is one of the most fundamental changes in my life. i nod in response to her question.
“i’m scared of that,” she says.
“me too,” i admit and pull her close. we talk about how the body can live without the brain, but that the person would no longer BE.
“they would be like a plant,” she says slowly. “their body would grow, but they couldn’t play.”
i look at her. i see her in my arms, giggling as a baby. her hair in first pigtails, as she takes her first steps. here before me, grappling with existential crises.
i miss her — all her stages. the girl who exists now only in videos and memories. i will miss this girl, too.
one day. but not this day.
tonight, we snuggle on the way to bed, whispering secrets and talking about dreams.