I glance up from my new workspace to where she stands three feet from me, drawing on an easel I managed to resurface once some of their things moved upstairs. I can't see her latest work as the easel is perpendicular to where I sit, so I stand up and peek around the end of my desk to where she stands to see.
She grins and stands dutifully next to the easel as I come around further and indeed, she her first attempt at capturing something besides our family.
Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc.
"Yeah, sweetie, that's really good, I see it's Mike Wazowski, very excellent job!" I tell her genuinely, because yes, for a three year old, I'm impressed.
"Tayka a pitcher, Mawmie?"
"You want me to take your picture with your drawing, is that what you're waiting for?"
"Uh-HUH!" Her voice lilts at the end in that way that little girls' voices do when they're practicing their best sweet and innocent demeanor.
I chuckle as I pick up my phone from it's resting place on the edge of the workspace and unlock it, opening the camera.
"Okay, you ready?" I ask as I am the phone towards her and the easel, trying not to catch my own shadow from the windows behind me. "Say cheese, Baby!"
"TEEEEZE!" she grins as I rapidly tap the screen, manually burst-shotting the scene lest I miss the magical moment, the one worth sharing.
As I pull my phone close to preview the images, she asks to see a pitcher Towvaaah and I show her, her tiny finger already astute at sliding the images back and forth across the relatively small screen, as this has been as it always was for her, while it often still feels new and near revolutionary to me.
She is pleased with the outcome and trots back to the easel, erasing her etching and beginning again, another family portrait of squiggle-lined blobs with unimpressed faces.
It is in between the obvious attempts at being cute and the inherent truth of her actually being cute that I saw a glimpse, ever so momentarily, of her future self. A teenaged Tova peeked out at me through my own pitch brown eyes implanted upon a tiny(-er) face and beguiled me. She had confidence and grace and a self-awareness of all the power she possesses in her beauty and in her mind and I, I lost my breath in awe while my stomach clenched in brace for the knowledge that ten years from now while I sit on the edge of 40 and she newly 13 will be a whole other world of parenting I can't even begin to fathom now.
I just remember being a teenage girl not that long ago, it feels. And this child is so very much the parts of me I fear the most, and the parts of her father that dropped me to my lovesick knees so hard, so fast, almost a decade ago.
And I am not prepared.
Yesterday, as we passed a line of Kindergartners at her school, a boy I did not recognize called out to her by name as we left for the day, hands in his tiny khaki pockets. He approached her with the urgency of a young child filled with anticipation, but under a layer of practiced cool that struck me with its seeming maturity.
He handed her an unopened pack of graham crackers and smiled.
"Oh, dank woo," she said as she turned them over in her hand, drinking them in with her eyes while maintaining a sort of ambivalence that also took me aback.
I mean, she loves graham crackers like whoa.
He nodded once and ran back into his line, hands in his pockets and a smile on his face. The line proceeded down the hall past us while Tova showed me her prize, telling me to wait (complete with sign) to open them until we got to the car. She led me down the hall towards the exit as if this were the most common thing in the world, and I ...
I could barely believe that this -- this -- was beginning already.
This girl will be a force to be reckoned with soon, leaving hearts and minds in her wake, much sooner than expected and that I am truly ready for. She is strong and smart and she knows both of these things with every fiber of her being, her mischievous smile and precocious mannerisms serving her well now at three and blossoming into true character assets for the rest of her growing life.
But for now, I am happy for the glimpses of the woman she's becoming, slowly, in her own way.
Because I think they mean I might be doing something right.