We were cuddled on the couch watching Disney's Hercules, during which Meg, the embattled love interest, mumbles something to young Herc about how it's easier to be alone, because that way no one can hurt you.
Just moments earlier, I had found myself thinking, "Now how is a four-year-old supposed to interpret a concept like this? A child this age is not going to understand the concept of romance and heartbreak. She's going to think that this woman is afraid that the muscle-bound man might hit her."
Secretly I was hoping that her mind would just gloss over that moment and move on with the story. So when she said, "Don't hurt me, mommy," I thought she was playing out that idea in her mind.
I put my hands on her shoulders, looked her in the eyes, and said, "Q, you know that I would never, ever hurt you, right?"
"I know, mommy," she said gravely, returning my frank stare with her night-black eyes. "And I will never, ever hurt you."
And then she said, "I'll love you forever, Mommy."
Let me step back several years and say that, when we were taking adoption classes prior to our trip to China, one of the many warnings that the adoption counselors gave us was that a child from an institutional background in China will often take longer to trust the women in their lives, since most of the caretakers are women, and therefore the children have already been abandoned (in their view) once (or twice, if you count the original abandonment) by women that they cared for. Therefore, we were told, the child might hold out affection from the female partner in order to protect themselves from further heartache.
Q has always been a happy and optimistic child, and we had very few attachment issues during our early times together. She accepted us, had fun with us, seemed to love us. She was always a happy, humorous and smiling child, a creature of joy.
But I have to admit that during the first three years she always gave her open affection more easily to her daddy. I did not feel outcast, as I had feared. She gave me plenty of love as well. We were very close in many not-so-physical ways, and life was good and fun and full between us. But the openly adoring glances, the broadest smiles, the easiest affection was always for her daddy.
Only in the past month or so has there been a noticeable shift in her affection toward me. It was as if a floodgate had opened abruptly, and her affection was flowing at full volume. She started hugging and kissing me unprompted. She would throw her arms around me at odd, random moments. When she was sad or scared or hurt, she would no longer put a hand on my chest to hold me off when I would try to comfort her. She would kiss without prompting, instead of offering a peremptory cheek when asked for a kiss. She would blurt out "I love you, Mommy!" without my saying it first. She even began to write the letters of her name intermingled with the letters of my name: "Q-M-I-O-U-M-M-Y", when she was perfectly capable of writing both "Qiu" and "Mommy" separately.
"I'll love you forever, Mommy", my new, preternaturally-mature daughter pronounced with intense gravity. "Even when I'm angry."
"And I will love you forever, Q," I told her, making my best effort at not allowing the tears to well up in my eyes.
She nodded once, pragmatically, as if a deal had been made, and we could now move on with our lives together.
It snowed buckets last night, and I just walked out to the back fridge in the dark through about a foot of fresh powder, but until the sun comes up and illuminates the scene, I will leave you with these magical photos that my mum took last week in the mountains.
This is the stunning TenMile Range outside of Copper Mountain.
I just got in some Japanese paper clay - a wonderful medium - and I have been having so much fun! There is a new doll in the shop, Isabelle!
She is just 6" tall and light as a feather, jointed with wire. Her hair is hand-sewn from mohair, her dress from vintage lace (her polka dot leotard peeks out from underneath) and she wears an aged bronze necklace with a tiny, vintage bell from India.
Since we were fortunate to have my mother in town the week before Christmas (a spontaneous, last-minute visit on her part before she heads off for Africa) we decided to stage a sort of pre-Christmas on a randomly-chosen day.
Q was absolutely delighted to have a chance to open presents before the actual holiday...I think it broke the wait up for her a bit! Also, I have to say that at this age, opening all the presents on one day is a bit overwhelming for her. Her brain tends to sort of short out, as if fuses were blowing all over her nerve endings. The end result is that she doesn't seem to really "see" any of the gifts individually, which sort of defeats the purpose of all the thought and time that goes into choosing them. So really I think that opening some of the gifts previously was a stroke of genius. This way she is not overwhelmed, and has a chance to appreciate the gifts on a more individual basis ;)
LaoLao trying on her new down puffer.
One of LaoLao's gifts, brought from the fabulous (and much-missed) Tinker Toys in Woodstock, was a packet of dragon tattoos. Q needed for daddy to help her apply six or seven of them at once.
But the real prize, the highlight of the 2011 season, were the Tin Men that LaoLao brought (see picture later this post). Q's greatest hero.
The girl with the dragon tattoos.
TinMen, one store-bought, one handmade by LaoLao.
It was such a treat for all of us having LaoLao here for a surprise visit. Q was beside herself with joy the entire time, and we all had such a lovely visit. It's good to spend time as three generations of mothers and daughters who treasure each other so deeply.
I never dared hope that I would have as joyful a relationship with my daughter as I did with my mother, but this impossible dream seems to have come true. Lucky all of us!
Q took this portrait of LaoLao's ear over lunch at Parisi. She was very into taking artistic closeups of us. So sweet.