We sit outside in the yard, enjoying the crisp March morning.
She’s wearing a brown velour hoodie with a puppy embroidered on the front, khaki pants trimmed in pink, and shoes that are at least three sizes too big. Shadows play across her face. Crushed remnants of dead leaves between her fingers, she studiously examines the ground, picking up a leaf, a twig, a bit of dry grass, holding it up in front of her to get a better look. Finally, she chooses one and holds it up to me.
“Very pretty,” I tell her, encouragingly.
She smiles, but looks vaguely disappointed. It was the wrong answer. I knew it was, as soon as I said it. Even though she doesn’t speak English yet, I felt as though I could hear my baby’s thoughts in that moment: Pretty? Just pretty? It’s not pretty, it – it’s elegant. Subtle. Beautiful in its stark simplicity – look at the angles, Mom! Look at the shadow it casts, the serenity inherent in its clean lines…
I know, because in my dimmest, earliest memories, I remember being that serious, quiet child who could sit for hours in the yard, just looking at the world around me, thinking thoughts and appreciating beauty that, like my daughter, I didn’t have the words to express, hearing the adults around me dismiss my most sublime and breathtaking discoveries as merely “pretty.”
By way of apology, I offer her a stick – short, but bleached almost pure white by the sun, with one branching twig reaching out in just the right way. She accepts it with good grace, and we go back to communing in silence.