As anyone who has read even a few posts on this blog knows, I spend a lot of time considering the minutiae of my life; dissecting and analyzing it to a practically plasmodium level. Endless processing, scrutinizing and yes, criticizing of everything from my hair follicles to my clothing choices and my stride. I spend so much time inside my head analyzing my every action on a cellular level, that apparently I sometimes miss what might be really important. I was playing and snuggling with Nina on the couch the other day, having read a book together that culminated in a crescendo of silly singing when she suddenly became quite earnest. She looked into the kitchen where Emily was making dinner and then back at me and said, “I love you and mama so much! Like, infinity! You are the best moms EVER!” Sitting on my lap facing me, her look turned very serious and she held my face between her pudgy little hands. She said, “Do you know what I love best about you? Something I have always loved best about you? Can you guess what is the very best thing I love about you?” She was looking so intently into my eyes I couldn’t possibly guess what it might be. She let me consider. In my head I quickly ticked off the things that I felt a 4 year old might determine made for a good parent. We could certainly scratch my cooking off that list. Lucky for her Emily does the vast majority of cooking in our family so no one is subjected to too much of my culinary gastronomy. See, I’m doing it again! Yes yes, I can find a list of things about myself that are not worthy of my child’s adoration. So what is the thing she loves, has always loved, best about me? My lead-off guess was that I take care of bugs and spiders, keeping the family safe from pestilential cooties. I’m the family’s official pest control guy. “Nope.” she said and then paused considering, “Well, that too”. And before I could make another guess her 4 year old patience ran out and she squealed in delight as she poked me (none too tenderly) in the divot under my nose and above my lips. “THAT!”, she whooped with ebullience, “That is the very best thing about you. I always love looking at that on you.” And then she fell back off my lap giddy with glee for having shared something so consequential.
To be sure I was quite taken aback myself. And to be completely forthright, I have spent considerable time staring at and attempting to take pictures of (ostensibly for the purpose of this blog) my philtrum since this declaration of dubious distinction. Yes, that is the Latin, if not scientific, name for that divot under your nose and above your lips. Apparently, according to Nina, mine is deep and shaped like a raindrop and just looking at it makes her happy. Who knew? Certainly not me. There must be a lesson here somewhere, no?
In the Jewish mystical tradition the story is told that among the angels there is one who serves as the midwife of souls. Her name is Lailah. She watches over the treasury of souls in Heaven and once a soul is chosen to be born, Lailah brings it down to earth and plants the soul in the mother’s womb. There, in that cozy space a light shines on the child and they can see to the edges of the universe. Lailah tells the growing baby all the secrets of the world – the languages of all animals, the language of the wind, the history of that very soul, and its future. Just before it’s time to be born, Lailah turns out the light and touches the baby’s upper lip, creating an indentation. And then Lailah says, “Shh, all this knowledge must be kept secret.” Some would end the story by saying that we have the rest of our lives to learn all those wondrous secrets again. Perhaps I am relearning what I already knew but forgot. The things that are most important I already know. But they are deep within. And they are easy to overlook. But they are as plain as the philtrum on my face. Thank you Nina, for reminding me.