I rub her back in clockwise circles, my hand's length nearly her back's width. Her head is pressed against her pillow, one eye open.
I wonder what she's seeing, and what words accompany the images, if any. I try to remember being that small. She's got the ten-mile gaze which might mean she's mostly asleep but her brain just hasn't remembered yet to pull the shutters of her eyelids. Or, maybe she's replaying the morning, remembering things said. Does she yet fantasize about things she wishes she would have said?
She blinks and her eye refocuses on the rise of the pillow created by the impression of her head against it. The white pillow case must rise like a hill, creating an horizon line from her vantage, the shadows telegraphing its roundness, which she may someday be able to see with a visual artist's eye, in that compressed two-dimensional recognition that it is only color and gradations in color that tell us the shape of the things we see. Touch confirms it, but seeing isn't touch -- a concept that only came home to me when I began to take art classes in college. Seeing is interpretation. Art is translation.
She blinks again and her eye drifts to the bangs from her forehead, falling to the side of her nose. I remember that cozy private den -- the dimensions of space framed by my nose, cheek and hair, and the rise of a pillow. Even recently, lying on my stomach on a sun-warmed towel after swimming in cold mountain waters, I was noticing it -- though it was my arm serving as a pillow. The light's play on that small essential sanctuary of time and space, the curve of the bridge of my nose, the remarkably vast and minute distance between the surface of my eye and the surface of my pillow (or arm), the red shadows cast by the fine strands of hair that rest across the distance -- it's holy.
She blinks again and refocuses on me, discovers I'm watching, and, too late, I close my eyes.
She rolls over under my hand, and when I reopen my eyes, both hers twinkle at me.
I wish I were the mama whose eyes twinkled back at her in conspiracy -- "Let's spend this afternoon together letting life break open before us and amaze us." Instead, I sigh and redouble my efforts to encourage her to close her eyes to dream.