The Boss was hysterical at the top of the stairs. Tears poured from her eyes while mucous like runny amber congealed on her upper lip. She was too spastic to listen, too tired to act. She just stood there, looking down at me, and bawled.
"Come down here now!" I demanded. I was at the end of my rope. It was 8:30 in the evening and The Partner had yet to complete his 2.5 hour commute home. A line of tension traversed my shoulder blades with a dull ache. In front, my chest was tight too. "Now!" I shrieked.
The Boss made her descent, hobbling slow, not letting her gaze leave mine. She was pouty and hurt. She was dependent on my good will, on my hugs. I started out glaring, but there was something in her face at that very moment that changed my perception.
Time in my mind's eye sped forward ten years, maybe fifteen, and suddenly her legs were less colt-like; they were curvy. She was tall and beautiful. The pout was there, but not the downturn at the corners of her eyes that demanded my love with the ferocity of three new years. I saw independence and the first gel of experience. I saw it. I am not embellishing for the sake of the written word. I'm not conveying a metaphor. As she came down those stairs toward me, so draining and drained, I saw not what was there at that moment, but the hint of what was coming: the day she no longer realized she needed me.
I let it all go. The frustration. The pull from so many directions. I stood right where I was. The Boss stepped into my arms and I held her to me, hefting her frame around my waist. She fit so differently than she used to, than her brother does now. I laid my chin on her shoulder.
"I'm growing," she said. She was happy now, safe and sound. That's all it took. Like a kiss on a boo boo. That's all. "I'm growing!"
I pulled my head back, shook it, and stared at her, our wide eyes matching. At first I wondered if she was reading my thoughts. Was I so transparent? Was she so wise? Then that split second of confusion passed and I knew her words were mine. I remembered that I say it every time I pick her up these days. It's the first thing I think as I collect her gangly parts into one tight package against my chest. It's the first thing I say.
"You're growing." With an umph I arrange her legs, one on each hip, and jostle her backside to a comfortable perch atop the pad of baby fat on my abdomen. Her solidity is pressing and new. "I can't believe it, how you're growing."