This time though, before she crawls away, I look into her eyes. Eyes that are changing from gray to blue to yellow and green. Just like mine. I experience a vague sense of deja vu looking into the eyes that have their own body, their own soul, and yet... they are a mirror of my own. I am looking into a piece of myself. If I were to die today, a piece of me, if not only my eyes would keep living.
"You are my lion", I tell her, and she smiles in return, keeping my gaze. We are locked together in a moment that my heart tells me will last forever. "We went through things together, you know, you and me. And you were the only one who knew, the only one who really shared it with me. Everyone, they tried to understand, but when it was dark, at night, and I still couldn't see, it was you there with me. I could feel you squirming inside of me, already fighting, already so strong." I lean in close to her face, she reaches, smiling, for a loose strand of my hair and I whisper to her, "Let me tell you about your name."
I cup the velvety side of her face and tell her, "Your name is Ariane Orion Hayes and you did not have a name until I knew who you were. And I knew who you were before I ever even saw your face." She blinks, slowly and it seems as if she's actually listening, so I continue. "I went half blind you know, when you were in my belly. Half of the world was lost in a fog, behind big, black bars. I spent part of every day in different hospitals and doctors offices, giving blood, getting filled with dyes, being poked, prodded and otherwise treated like a medical anomaly. And there you were; you were always with me, and I stayed calm, for you. Just like me, you were in a situation that you hadn't asked for and that was beyond your control. I only cried once, but then I took a deep breath and blew the sorrow out slowly, in the form of air, between my teeth. It left me, slowly, and I put my hand on my mammoth stomach wondering how you were doing in there. I leaned in and whispered to you, are you OK in there? Kick once for yes, twice for no. You were, for once, still.
I prayed more than I think I ever have in those weeks and a quiet calm came over me. I felt oddly at peace even though the world was still half gone. I think you felt that too because you finally dislodged your heel from my ribs and lowered yourself to meet the world. They told me it was probably because of you that I got sick, but look into my eyes, your eyes, when I tell you that for you, I would have given both my eyes and that awful pinkie toe. No, I would have given my life to give you yours.
They decided they could not wait for you to choose when to make your grand entrance into the world, and just like your sister, your birthday was decided for you: 05-07-09. All odds. We beat them together. They told me that you could very likely be very sick. So when they finally placed you on my stomach, after weeks of wondering how you fared, I took one look at your face, saw you squinting at the bright lights, and I knew you were OK. And then. Then I let myself cry. Joy and relief poured out of my eyes and a sigh erupted from my heart. Me and you kid, we beat the odds, and we did it together."
This is the first time I tell her this story, but I know it won't be the last. It will be told and then retold. Shaped, polished, and embellished until it becomes an intangible part of family lore and lives on after I am gone.
She begins to squirm and I lean one last time and say, "Your name is Ariane Orion Hayes; you are my lion, the holy thing that brought me closer to God. Your name is the constellation that has drawn eyes to the night sky for thousands of years. The Great Hunter; the three stars that I can always find no matter where in this world I roam and when you turn your face heavenward no matter where you are, if we are apart, I will be looking for those same stars too."
She twists, giggles, and then crawls away, innocent to all the heavy things, existing only in this moment, and I crawl after her, relishing this moment too.