One day when my eldest daughter was in second grade, I wrote her a note and tucked it into her lunchbox. She liked it so much that she asked for one the second day. On the second day, I made it a silly poem. She wanted one again and again. My first theme was the animals we would encounter in our yard- deer, moles, nesting geese, crafty mice, stray dogs, the neighbor's cat who keeps vigil over our house like a hungry wraith, the ephemeral butterflies who haunt our most humid days and seem to be swimming like rays. None of these short verses would take me more than two minutes to write. It became my rule for them to be quick and- whatever the opposite of deliberate is- as fleeting as these childhood days. They help me to notice her more- it's strange how hard that is- to continually notice someone. To notice with due wonder.
She's in fourth grade now and still wants these poems- the fact that she hasn't tired of them seems so strange to me that I feel the desire for them to contain more meaning. They have grown abstract and I'm not sure where I'm going with them. The one I wrote her yesterday read:
They say everything happens for a reason,
And if you look for it, you'll always find a meaning.
But I am happier just counting on the seasons
Changing just as naturally as you or I breathing.
Occasionally she gives me some feedback on the poems. All the kids she eats lunch with read them. One of the more boisterous girls tears it from her lunch box every day when she opens it and reads it before she does- a fact that amuses her. She told me last night that the other kids thought that one didn't make any sense but that she thought it sort of did.
Today she had a friend over to play and we were putting together a couple soccer nets for them to use. We had a couple of pieces of the PVC pipe used to construct the frames swapped and couldn't figure out what we were doing wrong for a minute. Then in a flash she realized what we were doing wrong and corrected me. "Oh!" I remarked, "Now it all makes sense!" I was delighted that she had figured it out first. And I was even more delighted when she said, "It's just like that poem that you wrote! 'Everything happens for a reason!'"
I don't know how much of the poem she really understood; I was just floored that a line from it was rolling around her mind in search of its meaning. I don't know what these poems are but they feel like a vital thread, something to keep exploring as a means of communication.
I always think of myself as connecting to her with my mind and her little sister with my heart. They are each beautiful connections, but so incredibly different. These poems feel like they broaden that connection just a little. So I will keep dashing them off as I am running out the door. Most of them are ridiculously cheesy but they preserve something. I think it will always be through our use of words that she and I share a little something otherworldly.