It was always going to happen sooner or later — later, in Marvel Girl’s case — but like many of life’s milestones, I am never as ready for these things as I think I’m going to be.
In the midst of her excitement, her jubilant preparations for the impending arrival of the Tooth Fairy (not to mention Miss Malaprop’s massive meltdown at the sight of her sister’s bloodied mouth), I felt torn between sharing the intensity of her joy and the old familiar tug of…of…of that feeling for which we have no adequately descriptive word in English.
It’s a blend of something like nostalgia, sometimes tinged with regret, but somehow resurrected by pride. It’s born of the knowledge that my Marvel Girl and her sister are growing up. And it’s inevitably followed by a rushing reminder of Gretchen Rubin’s ever so accurate observation that “the days are long, but the years are short”.
The Portuguese, bless them, have a word for this feeling, or something very like it: Saudade.
“Saudade” translates, to the best of my knowledge, as “a nostalgic longing to be near again to something or someone that is distant, or that has been loved and then lost”, or as Anthony de Sa puts it, “a longing for something so indefinite as to be indefinable”.
I feel saudade most acutely in those moments when part of me recognises, at some deep and otherwise undetected level, that after this, things will never be the same. These are the occasions when I feel that I am bearing witness to life — most frequently, for me, to the lives of my daughters. These are the moments that are captured by my heart’s camera, imprinted between heartbeats, indelible impressions of life most raw and pure.
I watched my Marvel Girl’s spontaneous dance of joy last night, her tiny tooth held tight between her fingertips, thrust up towards the light, and I knew the moment for what it was.
I won’t forget it, just as I won’t ever stop reminding her how much I love her, or how much she loves to dance.
And when I confessed to a dear, dear friend today that I was still feeling torn between saudade and sweet delight, he reminded me, ever so gently, that there was never ever any going back.
There is only the moment, to enjoy as much as is humanly possible.
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