The joy of being seen

On the drive home from school today, Hyla told me she’d borrowed a book from her English teacher.

Her English teacher gives the students some time to do their own reading every day (how jealous I am of that; “You must sit here now and read a book you enjoy.”), but Hyla’d forgotten to pack her own book this morning, so she selected one from her teacher’s classroom library.

In the car, she told me about the book. “The first chapter is about weasels. And the second chapter is about the south pole. I really think you’d like this book, Mom.”

When we got home, she dug the book out of her heavy backpack. I smiled with recognition. She had picked out Annie Dillard’s Teaching a Stone to Talk, a book of essays by one of my favorite authors. A book I’d read and loved years ago, then shelved and half-forgotten, until I saw it my twelve-year-old’s hands.

How well this girl knows us, her parents.

We’ve studied her all these years, since the very first hours, when we stared and stared and stared, trying to memorize every feature, knowing how soon she’d grow and change, and how soon we’d forget the things we told ourselves we could never ever forget.

It never occurred to me that she has been studying us, too. But of course she has.

She knows more than she ever lets on, the beautiful and the embarrassing. She knows the foods I loathe and the books I love, the things that make me cry and the things that make me angry, that ducklings make me happy and cold weather makes me impatient.

I suddenly feel exposed, in the nicest way.

Seen. Known. Loved.