I tell my baby girl: "I love you" one hundred times a day. The thought as natural as a breath. I chase and catch, hold her in my champion arms and kiss a perfection rounded cheek. I shout out: "I love you" as I whirl her round in celebration of my dazzling prize. Later, as we play, she sucks in her cheeks to moue a kiss, then, distracted by a brother or a toy, walks away. Disappointed in my loss, forlorn, I say: "I love you" to her back. Sitting on the kitchen floor, with infinite and tender care she tears the paper edging from a teabag, peers into the heart of her gift and fragrant pours it into her lap pot to join the rest. I, as ever, notice too late. Sigh, scoop and hug, whisper: "I love you" and pull her from the dried tea sea.
She walks now among our words, one small and trusting hand in mine. Unsteady still, sometimes she totters and then falls. Plump on her behind. Unpeturbed, she sits blank a while and then clambers up to try again to reach her goal of understanding. She says: "Mama. Loves. Loves me." True and sweet. Her mother loves her. She does not say the words she hears. She does not say: "I love you" though you would think she might. Might hope she would. Instead, she wraps herself entire in this one and truest certainty. "Mama. Loves. Me."