“Having a little girl has been like following an old treasure map with the important paths torn away.” – Heather Gudenkauf
The dark sky behind her speckled with a rainbow of Honolulu city lights. Orange, yellow, white, some looked blue. She ran across the living room, gaining momentum as she hurled herself, and released Koko into flight off of our twenty-fourth floor lanai. His beady eyes caught mine before he turned upside, his stuffed tail ticked up, and somersaulted before falling out of my view. No!
She was there at the edge of her world. Her feet were pressed at the wet railing, ready to surrender to whatever pain she had been carrying — one, two, three. I was too afraid to take a step, I didn’t want to give her any more reason to let go. You didn’t do anything wrong.
“I deserve to be punished,” she said.
It didn’t make sense.
So much of loving her meant that I had to convince her that she was worthy of love. I didn’t know how else to prove that, except to just be. I was born to love her, all I ever knew was love for her. And yet, she tested me. Always. Love was a test — and questioning her meant that I didn’t love her. How far would I go, how far could I go?
Sometimes it went as far as hitting her. She believed that the right thing was for her to be punished. Why? Because she was bad. Because she was bad to me, and she deserved to be punished for it. And what if I didn’t? Then it meant that she would do it herself — and that meant it would always be worse. So, I did it.
She wasn’t always that way. I remembered a time when love was warm. When there was no questioning, no testing. It was the warmth of her body, the familiarity of her hand drawing closer to me to feed me, the way she would rub my tummy when it would hurt. I’m not sure what happened. But her demons always seemed to stay close to her. And that was very hard for me. I wasn’t always sure who I would get, who I would see.
But one thing I knew then, and one thing I know now… is that I love her. I have always loved her.