Eight years ago, my now-husband got down on one knee and offered me a gorgeous, beautiful rock on an engraved band and a promise of long-lasting, eternal love. Beside the Lions Fountain on Purdue’s campus, one of my favorite spots, he smiled at me and asked me a question girls dream about and Hollywood uses to bring a romantic comedy to its satisfying, perfect conclusion.
For the last eight years, that rock has sat on my left hand – with the brief exception of a very, very swollen knuckle in the middle of an Indiana summer combined with the final months of pregnancy – as a symbol of my husband’s love and of the importance of that man in my life.
Today, I was offered another rock.
This one held no visible value. It hadn’t been purchased from a jewelry store or given an expert’s appraisal. It hadn’t even been clean.
Ever since she learned how to walk, my daughter has been obsessed with our driveway, both sides of which are lined with rocks that separate it from the neighbor on either side of us. Something about these rocks is a magnet for my child; she babbles with excitement when she sees them and rushes over to examine them with care, detail and pride of an archaeologist stumbling over priceless artifacts. With her sweet, incredible smile, she turns to me to show off her latest find before hurrying to grab another one with her teeny hands. It’s become a post-daycare tradition of ours in the last few days.
As I stood with her today, these priceless gems were handed to me for safe-keeping. There was nothing valuable or special about them, save for what my daughter saw in them. There was no reason for her to find them so amazing – really, it was the almost stereotypical internet joke – “…I wish I loved anything as much as that baby loves that rock…”. I’d probably seen half a dozen memes in the last couple of years showing something similar.
But seeing that amazement on my child’s face was different. Being handed those rocks – a signal that she trusted me to hold them for her, that she trusted me to protect her treasures – made my heart melt with the sort of unexpected joy of motherhood that can only be found in some of the oddest places.
Motherhood wasn’t an easy journey. There was a long road for us, plagued with new jobs, new houses, and a lot of negative pregnancy tests and cursed periods. As someone who struggles with anxiety, there was so much worry in the first trimester about something going wrong. And there was a hard, uphill battle in the months postpartum where sleep was a distant memory and I felt like a stranger to myself.
But today, as I crouched behind this perfect, tiny human and accepted her gift of a couple of pebbles, every struggle was worth it. Every hard day became little more than a memory of what had gotten me to that point.
And while it has no carat, color, clarity, or specific cut, this rock means something to me. Like the one my husband gave me, it’s one I can’t stop examining and marveling over.
It’s the first gift my daughter’s given me that I can hold. To her in that moment, it meant everything. And the person she wanted to share that joy with was me.
When the next tantrum comes, whether it’s over spilled milk, an empty bowl of goldfish, or the end of an episode of Sesame Street, I have my rock. And, no matter what, I can be hers.
And one day, I’m going to figure out some way to give this back to her. Currently taking suggestions for “DIY Rock Projects” so I can hand this back to her one day and she can roll her eyes at me. It’ll be totally worth it.