This morning, I flipped through Tori’s first photo album with her.
“Baby nite nite?” she asked, pointing to the picture of herself moments after she was born, screaming with the indignation of being wrestled from the cozy womb.
“”No, baby just woke up,” I replied with a smile.
“Okay,” she nods and flips the page. “Baby!” she says, pointing at the picture of herself getting her first bath in a roasting pan.
“Yes,” I say, smiling at the memory. “Baby.”
Flip, flip, flip. She arrives at one of my most treasured pictures – her smiling on a white blanket in the sun.
“Baby!” she says gleefully.
“Yes,” I answer. “Mama’s baby. Are you Mama’s baby?”
She shakes her head. “No. I girl.”
My heart stops.
Later, she clambers up the stairs, the baby doll she got for Christmas clutched in one hand.
“You want to go upstairs and play?” I ask, getting up to follow her.
“Noooo,” she says, shaking her head. “I go bye bye.”
I let her half walk, half crawl up the stairs by herself, then follow her to her room.
She sees me standing in the doorway watching her play with her doll, and a frown takes possession of her small face.
“Nooooooo!” she says, running forward to push me from the doorway. “Mommy go!”
Surprised, I step backwards obediently as she pushes me, stopping when I reach the landing.
“I go bye bye,” she says again, leaning forward so I can’t mistake her seriousness. I nod, and she returns to her room. She picks up her doll and twirls it in circles as I do her, crooning nonsense as she goes. Then she lays it down, covers it shirts and blankets and strokes its bald head.
My mind flashes forward 30 years, seeing Tori, now Victoria, soothing her baby to sleep. And my heart cries out in pain.
My Tori’s starting the long process of growing up, taking her first baby steps away from me.
I have a feeling this is going to hurt. A lot.