The sun shone down on us in one of those perfect spring days that makes you wish you could stop time. Peeper had insisted on wearing her sunglasses “like mama,” so she was looking especially cool as she flew back in forth in the swing and stomped over a bridge.
Later, she climbed into a shaded play structure—the ones in the sun were too hot—and was crawling through the tunnel that led from the stairs to the slide. I ducked below the tube and popped my head up to the tiny windows in the tunnel. “Peekaboo!” I exclaimed, and I blew raspberries at her.
She giggled, squealed and looked for me again and again. Soon enough she was blowing (much spittier) raspberries back at me.
Then, out of nowhere, she told me, “I love you.” The unprompted declaration took my breath away, but in a flash the moment—and my daughter—were gone. She crawled the rest of the way through the tube, and I had to rush to take my place to catch her at the bottom of the slide.
“I love you”—the three sweetest words in our language, especially coming from a tiny voice that can’t pronounce its ls yet. Granted, she had spit bubbles dripping off her chin, but that lack of pretense made her gift even more special.
Even now, my heart catches remembering that simple phrase. Strangers and friends remark on what a talker my daughter is, and she spouts fully formed sentences with correct pronouns and tenses all day long. But those three words—“I love you”—were more precious than anything she’s uttered so far.
I love you, too, sweet pea.