As I Am

He’s not here to assess me, like my boss was the other week—reading my lesson plan, observing how I interacted with my students, noting my manner and appearance. He won’t sit down with me later to discuss the positives and negatives of my performance.

He doesn’t care about my past. The foolish decisions. The wasted years. My sins and my shames. My frighteningly long list of misdeeds could be much, much longer and it would make no difference to him.

He doesn’t mind that I’m not pretty. In fact, he doesn’t even seem to notice my glasses or my spots. Other women and girls in this light-filled hall have smoother skin, glossier hair, brighter eyes than I have, but in this moment he has eyes only for me.

Yet he has no idea who I am. I don’t suppose he remembers the last time we saw each other, but even if he did, he would be none the wiser as to my actual identity. Distant relation? Long-lost family friend? Neighbour? No such questions disturb his tranquillity.

Oh, I could be anyone, I could have done anything, and he wouldn’t care. All that matters to him is that this woman who’s holding him is smiling at him. I lean in, and he peers back, and we’re forehead-to-forehead, so close that I can no longer focus on the big brown eyes that I can’t see without adoring. We pull back, and he grins at me—the sort of beam a five-year-old might give after tearing off the wrapping paper and discovering a long-wished-for toy inside. All I’ve done is smile (with a funny face now and again for good measure) and lean into those eyes, and he’s delighted.

And me? I’m basking, joyful, in a nine-month-old’s smile.

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