I’ll keep the catheter you traveled to my uterus in as tiny baby blastocysts. The locks of your soft hair from the first time we cut it as you cried and squirmed and revolted. I will keep your baby bracelets you wore in the hospital and all of mine, too. I will keep your tiny teeth in Ziploc bags in a wooden box, each one labeled with a name and a date so I can keep them all straight.
I keep them because they matter. YOU matter. You are mine, always. I keep a box with your first scribbles and hand prints in paint, scraps of paper where you first wrote your names. I keep the band-aids from your first vaccinations and the notes your pediatrician wrote.
I keep all these things because they are proof; they are like evidence, exhibits I can offer up when you doubt me or think someone else loves you more. But the truth is no one else knows how it felt when you first unfurled your baby wings inside my belly like butterflies, wings whispering secrets. I will keep the pictures of my pregnancy, my girth. I treasure the gift you gave me. You trusted me to carry you, nourish you, to give you life. No one can take that from me.
I will treasure the sonogram photos. My dad never wanted to look at them because he said you looked like aliens. I resented that. I went through a million injections, invasive procedures, thousands of dollars and feeling like maybe I wasn’t woman enough to be your mother, and he couldn’t even stand to look at your photos.
I ran my hands over my taut belly every day with so much love that tears dripped onto my stomach skin as I stood naked, admiring myself in the mirror.
I will treasure the way I loved how my body looked when I carried you. I was born to be your mother. I finally found what I could do. When I felt you kick or when you had the hiccups, the waves washed over me again and sent shivers of sheer gratitude through me like a jolt of lightning. Carrying life inside me — your lives inside me — is my most valuable treasure. It’s not even tangible, it’s just the knowledge and the memories of what I once did.
I treasure the notion that my love is like armor, a sturdy suit that can protect you from predators. My love roars like a lion in the night, but it also quiet like a sleeping dream. I don’t ever want to smother you with my love, and likely do the opposite which means I don’t show it enough.
I treasure your gap-toothed grin, the swing of your straight brown hair. I treasure your artistic ability and your haphazard sideways bun. I treasure your cuddles and snuggles and the lilt in your still-little-girl voice. I treasure your arms wrapped around my neck and the way you plead, “Mommy, squeeze me SO TIGHT!”
I treasure your socks in Birkenstocks. I treasure your text-message hearts. I treasure reading Pinkalicious books with you even though I long for you to choose something else sometimes.
I treasure you more than I let on or share with you. I’m afraid of losing you. Even if you go, I’ll still have so much of you saved in boxes…but what does that really mean?
I treasure the cap left off the tube of toothpaste, the Peppa Pig underwear on the floor. I treasure your drawer full of hair accessories that you hoard. I treasure the chapsticks, the ponytail holders, the gum wrappers and wet towels you leave in your wake (even though they piss me off) because they are proof of you, and you are mine.
You are/were here, even when you are elsewhere. The evidence of you is enough on some days to still me, and on others it breaks my heart.
I treasure your jokes with bad timing that don’t make sense. I treasure your stories of silliness at school or how you sat with someone at lunch so he wouldn’t be alone. I treasure your kindness, your honesty, your empathy.
I treasure your tushie in a bikini and your lithe, no-longer-little-girl legs as they run up the stairs two at a time.