Tonight, and many nights, Pearl wears a purple constellation nightshirt. We’ve finished our stories and turned off the lights so I lay my palm across the heart of the cosmos. Orion’s belt, the little dipper, a shooting star, they all thump soft and steady beneath my fingers. Her eyes are closed but it’s an obvious fake, the kind only a child can pull off; quick breath, tiny smirk, inevitable giggle.
Nearly every night since she was born, Pearl has instinctively grabbed for my hand as she falls asleep. She starts with my thumb and moves across each of my fingers, methodically smoothing the pads of her fingertips over each nailbed. When the sun sets I wonder, will this be the day she decides to fall asleep without holding my hand? She knows I’m clinging to this and she’s so damn clever she’s turned it into an emotional bedtime filibuster. We both know the twisted politics and yet it works, every single time.
In all other capacities, Pearl is fiercely independent. I have to constantly remind myself that she’s three and that while she provides a compelling argument, no, she probably shouldn’t chop the onion with our sharpest knife. No, she probably shouldn’t drive our car to the store. No, she definitely shouldn’t swim in the pond behind our house, by herself, in the dark. She believes herself capable of all these things already.
I would only be slightly surprised if she produced some yet-to-be-seen superpower. I imagine she will take flight at any moment. So as long as she pretends to need my hand at night, I will give in to the pull of her tiny universe.