"Yes, hold still."
"Ewwww..... Squish." giggles.
She was 2 and I was holding her hand in this gel like stuff, trying to make a mold to pour plaster over. Trying to preserve this tiny hand. She's not making it easy.
"Squish!" wiggles her fingers and laughs.
"Girl X, you have to hold very still. Once it's done, we can get out the play-dough ok?"
"Ok mommy." Pause. "SQUISH!"
And now I'm looking at that little handprint poking out of the plaster that we had painted light pink. I can see all the swirls in her fingertips, the lines in her palm.
"I know." We're done with the gel stuff.
"Let's wash it off ok?"
She used to let me wash her hands. She liked the way the water played over her fingers when she wiggled them back and forth. She liked her watermelon foamy soap, the only one she would use.
"Pay-do now mommy?"
I run my fingers over her plaster ones. I rub the smooth part where her hand had pressed through the gel from all the squirming. I put my palm to her plaster one and stretch out my fingers. Her hands were tiny, her fingers long. Like mine.
There were moments, brief and sweet, where she would curl into me and I could breathe her in, that sweet spot on the back of her neck where her little blonde waves barely reached. Moments where you could not tell where I ended and she began.
The paint on the plaster cast is faded a bit. I need to touch it up. The date on the back was from the summer I packed up everything we owned and jumped off the cliff. We moved here, 3,000 miles from where we started. A new beginning. Her hand print meant so much to me then.
Her green eyes are just like mine. They turn almost yellow when she gets mad. Just like mine. Her mouth curls in when she's thinking hard about something. Just like mine. She can be quiet and serious. But when she's feeling silly, look out.
Her hand was so small in mine. I slowed my pace to match her little legs. She liked to make up stories, still does. Then it was about dogs and cats living in the pond in front of our old house. Now she tells her brother stories about a king and his sister queen with oddly familiar names and the kingdom they ruled.
Her hands are almost as big as mine now. Her fingers will be longer than mine after all. Her hair is darker.
She is very much separate from me as she plays with her neighborhood friends and does her homework.
Every morning, Hurricane and I go out to watch her get on the bus. She'll play with her brother but mostly she pretends I'm not there and plays with the other girls. I pretend it doesn't bother me. I stand back and watch. We wave as the bus leaves.
When she went to preschool, she would cry for me throughout the day. She didn't want me to leave. Over time, things became more confusing there, so we pulled her out and I ended up staying home with her.
When she's sick, I get to see a glimpse of what was. The curling into me. Hearing her call out for 'mommy'; something she stopped doing when I wasn't looking. Letting me brush her hair back from her forehead and breath in that sweet spot on the back of her neck.
I put her plaster hand cast back on the shelf.
There are moments I miss from her toddler-era. Yet I see how she is becoming who she will be and I like what I'm seeing, even if it is further away from me.
"Pay-do squishy mommy."
"Yes it is."