If it were up to one and only one sentimental, sappy moment in animation that would clearly illustrate how I feel about my daughter, I think this would be it.
Not that I feel like a caged elephant or anything (okay, maybe sometimes), but the tenderness, the fleeting feeling of the scene, the love that pours through the grainy images (I don't think they've "digitally remastered" this one yet) on the screen evoke all the emotions I feel when I am allowed to rock my girl-baby for just one little moment before she is off and running circles around me because she "is not a baby, mom" and "doesn't need to rock". Oh, how she does. She does need to rock. She will never be too old to rock.
I smooth her blonde hair, which is now hanging down her back between her shoulder blades, and I curl my fingers up in it and breathe deep.
"Mommy, can you rub my face?" she asks after we've finished her bedtime story, and I know that she wants me to trace the outline of her eyes and follow the bridge of her little nose, skipping over her lips down to her chin before circling up along her cheeks and back to her eyebrows where I will do it all over again, until she is good and drowsy.
And the light in her bedroom gets grainy, like an old cartoon, with the night that envelops it, as it should, when it is bedtime. I can no longer make out the details of her face, only the outline that it is there. I can hear the up and down falling of her breathing, getting deeper and more relaxed with each exhalation. I know she's close.
So I carefully scoot myself out from under her covers and slide off the edge of her big-girl bed, picking up a beloved stuffed animal that has fallen onto the floor, putting books back on the shelf.
I sprinkle her forehead with the nighttime magic that has been created between my children and myself, the magic that her brothers still get, even though they're "big".
"Don't go, mommy," she says, barely able to move her lips because the sleep is right there, waiting to take her.
And I don't want to go.
I don't want to leave the womb of her room, on this last night of her third year.
I want to stay in there forever, and drink her sweetness, her innocence, her littleness.
Tomorrow she'll be four. Tomorrow she'll be a girl. No longer able to be called a "toddler". And I'm just not ready.
Because wasn't it just yesterday that she looked like this,
Happy 4th Birthday, Baby Girl.
My trunk will always be here for you, baby mine.