We have a tradition, my queen and I. One of those splendidly mundane rituals that, even in its repetition and unremarkability, is something sort of magical. Every time I emit the soft, quick whistle that signals taking the dog out, she rushes to the top of the three metal-lined steps leading down to the back door, where I stand, arms outstretched, waiting.
Fly to me! I say.
Every time, she pauses, rapture slathered across her round face as the height from floor to top step miraculously expands into a dramatic chasm between us. Then, she free falls into me, her mother. Every time, a leap of faith. Every time, I catch her.
How we giggle. Oh, how we squeeze each other and laugh.
I can’t remember when we started this silly routine, only that she was noticeably smaller and lighter at the time. I didn't need to brace myself for her impact, didn't bend at the knees to absorb her weight into my own.
Already she is 3 years old, my last baby. Stretching up and thinning out, the face of a young girl emerging, curls already threatening to loosen and unfurl. It’s getting harder and harder to catch her as she ragdolls her 30-odd pounds into me with utter confidence.
Just last night, I dropped her for the first time. Not because she was too heavy, but because I wasn't ready for her to leap.
Before long, this ritual will fade and we will find our rhythm with new delicious pockets that belong only to us. But the words will remain, a refrain my heart will hum long after the practice is retired. Fly to me. What mother doesn't want her last baby to need her a little longer? Who doesn't hope the ones we love most will find us when they crave our arms and our laughter?
Fly to me, my girl. Fly to me when your world feels ugly and when it feel so pretty your throat aches. Fly to me when you don't fit in. Fly to me when your heart breaks. Fly to me when you’re deciding between two equally big and scary things. Fly to me when you’re short on cash, when you hate your body, when you need a recipe, when your dog dies, when your house sells, when you accomplish something spectacular, when you bruise your ego, when you can't remember the words, when you forget who you are. Fly to me, no matter how big you are and how far away I may seem. Fly to me, my last baby, fly to me, fly to me…