Small things and incomplete sentences:
1) A morning spent with Nora and her 9 preschool friends practicing for the Christmas program, celebrating her birthday, and helping with a field trip to the Community Center. "I love you" scratched into the star of a stranger, handed to a child, "You can have this." Mr. Brown Can Moo and a chorus of hearts singing with abandon: "Gloooooooooooooooria." White cupcakes with chocolate chips pushed into the fluffy white frosting. So good. My first time baking something for Nora's class. An honor.
2) Mrs. B and Miss S driving all over Utica's back roads as I followed them to the school. (It was only 3 blocks back. Apparently they were trying to make fun of the fact that I still wanted to follow them just in case I got lost with 4 small children singing "Jingle Bells" at the top of their lungs while throwing Teddy Grahams at the back of my head. It seemed legitimate to me.) Nora's teachers were in hysterics when we pulled into the school parking lot, both of them bent over laughing in the front seats of the minivan. "What is this? The Dukes of Hazard preschool?" I asked them as we unbuckled everyone from their booster seats. I love Nora's school and the people there.
3) Walking back from the Chapel with Nora's small, warm hand in mine. She reaches my hand up to her chest, palm down and tells me that she has put her heart there for me to have and "I love you, Mommy." I think most moms can attest to the fact that kids often choose the strangest times to tell you they love you. The first time Nora told me she loved me was in the cracker aisle in Walmart. I stopped, pulled her out of her seat in the cart and just held her right there in tears.
4) Reaching into the freezer for apples for the birthday dessert, I notice that I've written, "(How do you like) Them Apples?" on the baggie, obviously the same person who wrote, "Wouldn't you like to be a pepper, too?" on all the baggies of green peppers lives in me, and I am grateful for her small gifts of humor meant only for me, knowing I would need a little extra something in the future.
5) Nora says to me, "Do you know, Mommy, I adore God." I find her one morning bent in prayer. She looks up: I was praying because I don't really feel like going to school today. And then I know why "I love you" happens at the most random moments. Because He is everywhere.
Happy Birthday, Nora. God be with you and protect you. I love you.