But sometimes she won't talk.
At the beginning of the summer we were driving one morning with the windows down. Her sister was eating a granola bar and impulsively, in the way two-year-olds are impulsive, she threw the wrapper out the window. E began to cry.
But that's litter! The police will be mad at us! You have to go back and get it!
I explained to her that I couldn't stop the car in the middle of the road. I told her about street cleaners. She stopped crying.
I thought it was enough.
We had a tornado warning today. Watch and wait is the protocol, right? Try to carry on, but watch. Be prepared to shelter if necessary.
A month into summer she sobbed deep moaning tears as I turned out her lights at bedtime. She wanted to know when the police were coming to take me to jail.
For the littered granola wrapper.
Today: I don't know what was wrong. She can't tell me.
I think I let a worry stay inside me too long and it got tangly and now it's sticking to other worries and I can't get this one out and now they're all tangly together and sitting in my belly and I can't get any of them out and now I feel very sad and I don't even know which one is why.
I'm watching intently, but I don't know what I'm looking for.
There was the time when I was just not much older than she is now and one of the McLeod boys was bullying me on the playground and I don't remember what he did but I remember he told me not to tell my mom or he'd do something worse, even though I don't remember what the worse was, and I got so tangly in my belly that I couldn't let the sad out, either, and so I punched my brother as hard as I could because I was so corkscrewed with small-body-big-emotion anxiety that my worries came out of me sideways, through my fist.
I know she holds her worries close because they scare her. And I understand her words, even as I know that she's stronger than I was and it's not helping her now, because she's more in control of herself than I was, and she knows she can't let her worries out in a way like that and she's holding tight so they don't explode outward with shrapnel.
We took a long walk. We walked away from school and work. We climbed the steps of the parking garage. We sat in its shade. I don't know if this is the shelter she needs. I don't know how to help her untangle her knots.
The tornado didn't touch down by us today but there were heavy rains and we had a wild thunderstorm yesterday and one in the early hours of the day before that and the radar shows we'll have another one tomorrow and it's August in the mid-Atlantic so I'm sure there's a long string of dark, rumbly storms approaching us and my first baby, she's upset and can't tell me why.
Edited to add: this post was spotlighted as Blogher's Voice of the Week, which is humbling and wonderful. And although E spent most of that evening and night crying, she was her usual cheerful self the next morning. We still don't know what was wrong. I still watch, waiting for the tangles to hurt again.