She’s 12 now. Just finished her first year of middle school. Learning to go from class to class, changing clothes for gym, wearing uniforms, dragging a suitcase of books around, report cards with grades, tests with percentages, hard days, good days, light days, challenging¬† days.

Drug talk, sex talk, girl talk, talk talk.

Starting to want more privacy. Starting to close her bedroom door. Starting to share more with her friends than with me.

She’s still my baby.

She’s still the child who I sang Lavender Blue to in a rocking chair. Still the child who never wanted me to put her down. Still the child who beamed at the sound of a cat purring, a dog barking, a new word forming.

Discovering foods, swimming, art, writing. Devouring books, theatre, music, movies.

Questioning the planet, people, nature, galaxy.

She still holds my hand when we walk. She still wants to dance with me in the kitchen. She still kisses me and lets me kiss her until we burst into giggles.

She still lets me call her bunny.

But when I watch her staring out a window I can’t help but wonder…

What is she thinking about?

Is the world getting confusing? Is she scared of anything? Everything? Is she feeling her childhood slowly losing its innocent wonder as pre-teen conversations demand her attention?

Is she okay?

I walk up behind her, wrap her in my arms, and breathe her in. Breathe in my child.

I love you, baby. You are always and forever my baby girl.

I know, mama.

And she places her hand on my face, smiles, then runs to join her friends.

I can hear her.

She’s okay. More than okay.

This is the story of mother and daughter – our story.

My love for her so deep, I cry.