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  • Rachel Welcher

Being Known

Being Known

In the middle of the night, as my daughter falls

back to sleep in my arms, I try a little experiment.

I whisper, “I love you,” with eyes fixed on the

sleepy corners of her mouth, and I wait.

Her expression remains unchanged, in that

slack-jawed surrender that defines the “milk coma.”

I try again, this time adding her name:

“I love you, Hilde.”

Sure enough, her lips break into a grin,

eyes still closed, body still a sack of beans,

but there it is. Proof.

That she knows her name,

That she listens in her sleep,

That she loves being known.

I try it again, during afternoon naps,

to increase the sample size.

I nestle the words into a warm cheek

or one of her dimpled fists:

“I love you, Hilde.”

And every time,

I watch her serene face break

into a smile, soft but distinct.

I don’t know if she knows what “I love you”

means yet, or when she will or if we ever

truly understand what love is, but she knows

that I tell her “I love you, Hildegaard,”

even when I am bleary eyed and bone tired

in the middle of the night, rocking her back to sleep.

She knows that her daddy makes up songs

with her name in them when she is

inconsolable, singing about the origins

of her broadway career, Hildegaard the Star,

making her legs kick the Charleston

until her tears turn into giggles.

She knows that we say her name

with light in our voices that didn’t

exist before.

She knows her name.

And maybe that’s all she ever

needs to know about love.

That it belongs to her.

Cover image by Jamez Picard.


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